Trump is perfecting the art of the Big Lie

But few of these lies were as chilling as the one last week at a fundraiser in Missouri.

The president recounted how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had told him that the U.S. doesn’t have a trade deficit with his country. Trump said he contradicted Trudeau — “Wrong, Justin, you do” — even though “I didn’t even know. … I had no idea.” When Trudeau insisted, “We have no trade deficit,” Trump replied: “I don’t believe it.” He then called in an aide who supposedly told him that the U.S. has no trade deficit with Canada — but only if you don’t count energy and timber. “ ‘And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year,’ ” Trump quoted the aide as saying. “It’s incredible.”

It’s incredible, all right, as in literally not credible. Trump’s own U.S. trade representative reports that the United States has a $12.5 billion trade surplus with Canada, and that includes energy and timber. But Trump didn’t back down: He insisted that his “alternative facts” were superior to actual facts.

.. On Thursday, the president tweeted: “We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive).” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sent out to do a full Spicer by dutifully saying, without a scintilla of substantiation, that “there are plenty of things, once you take into the full account of all of the trade between the two countries, that show that there is actually a deficit.”

.. this is another example of a would-be dictator’s desire not just to sneak lies by us but to shove them down our throats. Trump is signaling that he doesn’t care what the truth is. From now on the truth will be whatever he says, and he expects every loyal follower to faithfully parrot the official party line. Or else.

.. after Trump’s graceless ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The White House initially claimed that Tillerson had been notified the previous Friday that he was being let go, but on Tuesday Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, contradicted that spin by telling reporters that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had just found out about it. Goldstein was immediately canned and, in a significant bit of symbolism, replaced with a former host of “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite TV show. Trump is sending a signal that not only does he insist on his right to lie but that he regards telling the truth as a firing offense.

.. Trump’s gloating tweet makes it obvious this was punishment for telling the truth about the Maximum Leader’s attempts to obstruct justice and end an investigation into his links to the Kremlin.

.. As his presidency advances, Trump is becoming increasingly intolerant of disagreement and defiance, especially from aides who know what they are talking about.

  • Gary Cohn tried to tell him that tariffs and trade wars are bad economics; Trump didn’t listen and Cohn resigned.
  • Tillerson tried to tell him that scrapping the Iran nuclear deal is a bad strategy, and now he’s gone. National security adviser
  • H.R. McMaster is saidto be the next candidate for the heave-ho, because he reportedly rubs Trump the wrong way.

.. The frightening thing is that Trump’s insistence on redefining reality is working, at least with his base.

.. The video news site NowThis has posted a hilarious and horrifying clip showing Fox News talking heads hyperventilating over President Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the leaders of hostile states such as North Korea (Mike Huckabee: “President Obama likes talking to dictators!”), before going on to fulsomely praise President Trump for doing just that.

.. Trump is sucking a substantial portion of America into his Orwellian universe. The rest of us have to struggle simply to remember that war isn’t peace, freedom isn’t slavery, ignorance isn’t strength.

Mike Pompeo Is Good for Diplomacy

dwell for a moment on the awfulness of Tillerson.

He came to office with no discernible worldview other than the jaded transactionalism he acquired as ExxonMobil’s C.E.O. He leaves office with no discernible accomplishment except a broken department and a traumatized staff.

Six of the 10 top positions at State are vacant; even now the United States does not have an ambassador to South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa or the European Union, among other posts.

.. he did seem to figure out that Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. But that’s progress only because he was previously the Russian despot’s premier apologist.

.. he opposed the president’s two best foreign policy decisions: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and decertifying the Iran deal.

.. Some secretaries of state — Colin Powell, for instance — alienate their bosses by siding with the bureaucracy. Others, like Henry Kissinger, do the opposite. Tillerson is the rare bird who managed to do both.

.. unlike Tillerson, he will have credibility with foreign governments. Just as importantly, he’s been willing to contradict the president, meaning he’ll be able to act as a check on him, too.

Trump isn’t going to be disciplined by someone whose views are dovish or establishmentarian. But he might listen to, and be tempered by, a responsible hawk.

.. The notion that Kim Jong-un is going to abandon his nuclear arsenal is risible. What, other than reunification of Korea on Pyongyang’s terms, would Kim exchange his arsenal for?

Equally risible is the idea that his regime will ever abide by the terms of a deal. North Korea violates every agreement it signs.

.. might strike it at South Korea’s and perhaps Japan’s expense. This president has never been particularly fond of our two closest Asian allies, much less of the cost to the United States of aiding in their defense.

.. The promise of Pompeo is that he can provide ballast against some of Trump’s other gusts, particularly when it comes to the Kremlin.

  • On Syria, he dismisses the possibility of a collaborative relationship with Russia.
  • On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he insists, “America has an obligation to push back.”
  • On WikiLeaks, he calls it a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
  • On Russian interference in the U.S. election, he acknowledges it as incontrovertible fact and warns of the “Gerasimov doctrine” — the Russian conviction that it can use disinformation to win a bloodless war with the West.

.. If the thought that Putin has strings to pull with this president alarms you, Pompeo’s presence should be reassuring. However much you might otherwise disagree with him, the guy who graduated first in his class from West Point is not a Russian stooge.

.. he’d be smart to model his behavior on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the administration’s one undisputed star, who thrives in his job because he’s plainly not afraid of losing it, much less of speaking his mind.

Trump’s Negative Protection Racket (Wonkish)

What economic thinking went into the Trump tariffs announced last week? None at all. In fact, the economists (“economists”?) who currently have his ear seem to regard their job as being to confirm the wisdom of whatever he decides to do. Peter Navarro:

My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters.

.. Sometimes, however, rates were negative: if you put a tariff on parts but not on cars, you were actually discouraging auto assembly.

.. But still, the key point is that even while embracing protectionism, Trump is imposing negative protection on a lot of manufacturing. That’s hardly the story he wants people to hear – and he’s almost surely doing it by accident, out of sheer ignorance (because his “advisers” aren’t in the business of, you know, giving advice).

And this is how we risk a trade war?

Trump says SNL should bring back Darrell Hammond. Hammond says only if Lorne asks.

Hammond was one of SNL’s greatest impressionists during his 14-year run with the show, pulling off more than 100 characters, from the lip-biting Bill Clinton to the foul-mouthed Sean Connery. But his Trump was so good, SNL kept him in that role even after he left the cast in 2009. He made his final Trump appearance in 2016. (Taran Killam also briefly held the role.) Then Trump’s candidacy took off, and SNL boss Lorne Michaels decided he wanted a more visceral approach. He tapped Baldwin, a Trump hater whose cartoonish portrayal of the reality-TV star president would go on to earn him an Emmy.

.. For Hammond, the shift was crushing, which he detailed when he spoke to The Post last year. Hammond, who remains SNL’s announcer, says he’s now at peace with keeping his Trump in the past. He had moved to Los Angeles to get away from the constant questions, taping his intros remotely. Now he’s back in New York and has been a regular presence around Studio 8H.

.. Hammond’s relationship with Trump is different from Baldwin’s. He tries to remain decidedly apolitical. There were times, long before the White House, when he visited with Trump in his office, studying his movements and speech patterns. He even had Ivanka Trump’s phone number on his cellphone, only deleting it after he lost the part. Last year, Jim Downey, the legendary former SNL writer, called Hammond’s Trump impression “the gold standard.”

But Michaels, speaking to The Post last year, said that he wasn’t looking for accuracy as Trump’s candidacy began to build.