Chinese Puppy Owner Tugs Leash, Little “Tariff Man” Yips
Just yesterday, an idiot of world-historical proportions boasted about his “strong and personal relationship” with a bloodless tyrant, and how they were in the midst of working out a mutually advantageous trade deal. Today, however, the idiot is out there tweeting warnings about how he might have to impose new tariffs if the tyrant doesn’t play fair.
Donald Trump, labelling himself “a Tariff Man” (his embarrassing capitalization), still thinks he is calling the shots with his dear personal friend Xi Jinping, rather than being played for a sap every step of the way; he is therefore out on his smartphone promising to raise the price of goods on all Americans if he doesn’t get his way with the Chinese. That’ll show the godless commies!
In an apparent response, at least in part, to Trump’s brilliant insertion of pointless instability into the American economy, the stock market had a very bad day.
A few semi-random thoughts on these events:
The Chinese are all about reading their rivals and finding angles from which to play them for China’s long term advantage. There has never been an easier read than Donald Trump. Every time he tweets about his “warm” and “personal” and “strong” and “wonderful” relationship with Xi Jinping — which I’m sure Trump thinks is such a clever business strategy — the communists are laughing themselves to sleep, knowing they own him, because in the long run, none of this is about trade for them. It’s about advancing Chinese communist hegemony throughout Asia, and achieving strangleholds on the rest of the world through strategic infrastructure, resource, and land investments abroad. It’s about global power.
Does Trump understand any of that, or care; and even if he did, would he have any idea what to do about any of it? I know what I’m guessing on those questions. It’s China, not Trump, that plays chess. I don’t believe Trump would have either the intellect or the basic patience to finish a game of checkers. Just one man’s opinion.
Since we’re on the subject of Trump’s intelligence, or lack thereof, I know there are still millions of otherwise sensible Americans who insist on maintaining that he is a genius of some sort. Perhaps we ought to address this matter one more time, just to put it to rest.
While I acknowledge that his brain has many defenders, I don’t personally know any thoughtful, literate, or historically aware people who imagine Trump to be an intelligent man. For that matter, I really don’t understand how any thoughtful person could listen to Trump speak for thirty seconds, let alone thirty years, and get the impression that he is intelligent. (I’m not saying there aren’t any such people, merely that I don’t personally know one, in spite of the fact that most of my best friends would probably fall into the broad category of thoughtful, literate conservatives.)
I do know, however, that a lot of people mistake a cynical sociopathic willingness to do or say anything for one’s perceived advantage of the moment for a sign of intelligence. (The leftist counterparts of these people always insisted that Bill Clinton was a genius for the same reason.) And a lot of people mistake money for intelligence. And a lot of people mistake practical material success for intelligence.
And a lot of people just have desperate fantasies that a “great businessman” who tells us he knows how to make everything right might be a real live John Galt, leapt off the pages of Atlas Shrugged to save the free world from the progressive non-producers.
Ayn Rand’s John Galt was a bit of a silly fantasy to begin with. Donald Trump as John Galt compounds the silliness tenfold.
One likeminded Trump critic, objecting to my characterization of the Orange McConnell as unintelligent, counters that he must be highly intelligent — intelligent enough to outmaneuver more experienced and knowledgeable people and continually get away with it. Which brings us back to the matter of sociopathy.
A sociopath operates under none of the moral limits that even minimally, or at least publicly, guide those normal human beings with whom he “deals.” Thus, for example, Trump is not even restricted by the most basic considerations of consistency from one day to the next, which makes him the most dangerous and “successful” kind of liar and manipulator. And he certainly has no qualms about seeking to permanently damage a person whom he was praising to high heaven the previous day (or vice versa), which is something very few people would be able to do, as a matter of principle. He will, in other words, do or say anything at all that he believes will give him any kind of immediate advantage, without so much as a minimal degree of empathy for those he seeks to use.
If that’s intelligence, then fine, he’s intelligent. I choose to use the term a little more narrowly, and more in line with a view of intellect consistent with the idea of human nature as “the rational animal.” The rational animal is, by definition, not ruled by appetite and self-gratifying ambition, whereas the sociopath is motivated primarily by those things.
Meanwhile, the Trump apologists, aka GOP establishment dupes and defenders, are hard at it trying to persuade themselves that the bad stock day is in no way related to Trump, that “these things just happen,” and that Trump’s tariffs couldn’t hurt a fly.
In case the people offering these defenses strike you as somewhat hypocritical, in light of the way they always insist that Trump is personally responsible for every new job the U.S. economy produces, and also that a Democratic president is personally to blame for every bit of economic bad news that ever arises during his tenure, I offer you this quick primer in Basic Economics for Republican Party apologists:
When a Republican is in the White House, bad economic news means “We were due for a correction,” or alternatively “Nobody really knows why downturns happen,” while good economic news means “See what our great capitalist leader is doing for the economy!”
When a Democrat is in the White House, bad economic news means “See how progressives screw up the economy!” while good economic news means “America’s economy is so strong that it can even survive the socialists,” or alternatively “Nobody really knows why upturns happen.”
In other words, never try to argue economics with Republican Party apologists. Their position is unfalsifiable. And of course Democratic Party apologists use exactly the same theory in reverse, so their position is equally unfalsifiable.