Donald Trump had “one of those days” on Wednesday – and then he had another of them on Thursday. After spending two days getting roundly pummeled from all sides, Trump was surely feeling frustrated. He learned that Robert Mueller thinks he should be impeached. He learned that his own staff thinks he’s too fragile to see John McCain’s name on a ship. He learned that he’s lost what’s left of his filter when he screwed up and directly confessed to the fact that Russia helped him win the election. So what did he do?
With his scandals cascading and everything going wrong for him, Donald Trump decided on Thursday evening to go ahead and burn it all down. He only still has one thing going for him, and that’s the fact that he hasn’t yet managed to tank the booming Obama economy. So he announced out of nowhere on Twitter that he’s instituting a five percent tariff on all Mexican goods, until people in Mexico stop trying to cross the U.S. border.
Let’s be clear about two things. First, the border crisis does not exist – at least not the border crisis that Trump routinely pushes. Second, there’s nothing that the government of Mexico can do to drive the number of attempted border crossings all the way to zero – so Trump is making a demand that he knows can’t be met. There’s no constructive reason, short term or long term, for him to do this. But he sure has made a mess for himself.
As any economist could have told him, his announcement instantly sent the Dow Futures plummeting in overnight trading, all but guaranteeing that the stock market will have a bad day today. So much for the economy saving him. And after Trump went to all that trouble to tear down NAFTA and replace it with a similar-but-worse USMCA deal, just so he could claim that he “fixed” it, he’s made a move that’ll probably prevent the USMCA from ever going into effect. Trump just blew up his own long con.
So what is Donald Trump doing here? He no longer has any ability to advance his agenda in any constructive manner. That’s over. All he can do now is play it safe while his presidency burns around him, or burn it all down himself. With this new tariff move, Trump is burning it all down because it’s all he still can do. For a guy who’s usually long on threats and short on action, it’s notable that he’s now taking a blowtorch to things – and that he’s aiming the blowtorch in his own direction.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report