Which is what a child cries out in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” first published in Copenhagen in 1837.
Well, it seems some things just don’t change.
The reader will recall that the people who dwelled in the realm of the fable’s emperor were either too enthralled or too afraid to acknowledge the emperor’s lack of clothing, so they played along…until a child, too innocent to be worried about offending the emperor, cried out the truth. The emperor was parading around in his underwear.
And so, we come to today’s living version of the emperor and those of his subjects who see finery in a bare closet. We speak, of course, of the President’s insistence at his rally this week in Texas, that China was paying the cost of his tariffs and not the American consumer. His supporters and some sycophants cheered at the good news. But his assurance that American consumers are not bearing the cost was, well, a prevarication as naked as was Hans Christian Anderson’s emperor.
President Trump also told an Ohio audience the same thing; that China is laying out the bucks for the tariffs he’s imposed. Not so. Not even close. But the crowds cheered anyway.
Here’s what President Trump recently tweeted on the subject. “Based on the historic currency manipulation by China, it is now even more obvious to everyone that Americans are not paying for the Tariffs – they are being paid for compliments of China, and the U.S. is taking in tens of Billions of Dollars!”
But, again, his supporters cheer as though what he says and what he tweets makes even a modicum of sense. Every dollar of those tens of billions of dollars the U.S. has taken in has come from the tariffs paid by American importers…every dollar.
Here’s some more Trumpian rhetoric about his Trumpian tariffs, “Don’t let them tell you, the fact is — China devalues their currency, they pour money into their system. Because of that, you’re not paying for those tariffs. China’s paying for those tariffs,” the president said, hours after announcing a new set of tariffs on Chinese goods. “Until such time as there is a deal, we will be taxing the hell out of China,” he fulminated. His crowds cheer jubilantly.
But, no, Mr. President, you’ll be taxing the hell out of American consumers. While there has been some minor devaluation of the Chinese Yuan it has been a function of demand for the Yuan against a basket of currencies—not manipulation, and it has been too minor to have made any material difference in costs to the American importer.
President Trump’s hyperbole, of course, isn’t limited to tariff talk. He has staged elaborate photo ops with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and met with the dictator to jawbone him into behaving himself. Meanwhile, Kim shows no signs of ameliorating his behavior other than apparently sending what President Trump calls “beautiful letters” while he continues to launch missiles from above ground and from below the sea. That’s sufficient for President Trump to declare that the threat from North Korea is over. President Trump seems to take comfort from the fact Kim’s recent missile tests involve missiles that can’t reach the United States. That has to be small comfort to our Japanese allies or the tens of thousands of American GI’s stationed just below the 38th parallel.
The President has bragged that he doesn’t read and the best advice he gets is when he takes his own counsel. Well, he’s probably being modest. There is after all the good counsel he has enjoyed from Rudi Giuliani, Steve Miller, Peter Navarro, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and prior to his presidency, the late Roy Cohn. Actually, he did get good advice (which he ignored) from former Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, that, apparently, over-rated retired Marine General.
It seems that President Trump acts on his whims, and conducts policy, both domestic and foreign, by what moves him at the moment, confident that his innate wisdom really is great and unmatched. That’s why Turkey is in Northern Syria today, a region heavily populated by Kurds who the Turks want out and away from their border. These are the Kurds who stood with us in the fight against ISIS. They feel betrayed by President Trump…because they were betrayed.
It will be interesting to see what history has to say about this period of time. It will be grist for many historians and maybe even a few fable writers.