Donald Trump shot himself in the foot when he decided to launch a trade war against key U.S. allies, in a last ditch effort at creating a distraction from his worsening Trump-Russia criminal scandal. For these kinds of distractions to have the desired effect, you need to come out on top of them, or at least initially create the appearance that you’re going to come out on top of them. In contrast, Trump’s trade war is an immediate and inarguable loss for him. Now he’s shooting himself in the other foot.
Trump lost his trade war the minute the U.S. stock market began plunging at the mere announcement of a trade war. If any remaining doubt needed to be erased, it became official when China levied tariffs against more than a hundred different kinds of U.S. goods. Strategically speaking, it’s time for Trump to acknowledge that his attempt at a distraction has backfired, and either walk back his trade war so the U.S. economy doesn’t suffer, or at least stop talking about the major mistake that he made.
So what’s Trump doing instead? Talking even more loudly and bombastically about it, of course. Two days ago Trump tweeted this, which might be the dumbest tweet that anyone has ever written: “We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!” Today he retweeted himself, making sure that no one forgets his weird sudden insistence that his trade war doesn’t exist.
Then Donald Trump incoherently added this: “Despite the Aluminum Tariffs, Aluminum prices are DOWN 4%. People are surprised, I’m not! Lots of money coming into U.S. coffers and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” That’s not how tariffs work, and it’s not how prices work. CNBC quickly explained on-air that aluminum prices have only dipped because Trump exempted Canada and Mexico from his war on aluminum. Trump doesn’t even seem to understand as much.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report