Media personality Larry Kudlow, a loquacious and energetic advocate of low taxes and free trade, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Gary Cohn as director of the White House’s National Economic Council
.. Kudlow was an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, working closely with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the design of an initial tax plan. But Kudlow, in media appearances in the past month, has been critical of President Trump’s new plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports
.. Trump’s close relationship with Kudlow — and Kudlow’s experience speaking on television — have bolstered his candidacy for the job.
.. On March 3, Kudlow joined Steve Moore and Arthur Laffer in a column for CNBC.com that was sharply critical of Trump’s proposal to impose the new tariffs.
“Trump should also examine the historical record on tariffs, because they have almost never worked as intended and almost always deliver an unhappy ending,” they wrote.
.. It is unclear if Trump wants his next NEC director to advance an ambitious agenda or spend more time with the media defending the changes that have already taken place, such as tax cuts and efforts to roll back regulations.
“As a right-wing conservative and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, I never expected that the co-worker I would work closest, and best, with at the White House would be a ‘globalist,’ ” Mulvaney said in a tweet. “Gary Cohn is one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.
.. Globalist belongs in a class of words (“cuck” is another one, as is “othering”) that tends to say a great deal more about the person who uses it than it does about the person he says it about.
.. To be an anti-globalist, on the other hand, does specify something. It means someone who is convinced that serious business is transacted at conferences like Davos or Bilderberg or Munich, and that 500 or so people run the world at the expense of everyone else.
.. anti-globalism is economic illiteracy married to a conspiracy mind-set.
.. Who in the White House is left to tell the president he’s nuts when he tries to pull out of Nafta?
.. expats are our real globalists, representing the things that make America great:
- openness to new ideas, and
- a love of America honed by a combination of critical distance and a new depth of appreciation.
Trump’s top economic adviser departs, and the administration’s grown-ups worry.
Mr. Trump’s washing-machine and solar-panel salvo was to be followed by a focus on China’s unfair trade practices, namely intellectual-property theft. The president would announce narrowly targeted trade actions against that country, while holding aluminum and steel tariffs in reserve. All this would be choreographed around renegotiation of the North American and Korea-U.S. free trade agreements.
.. Mr. Ross took advantage of the situation last week to get the president’s ear, and back we were to the days of Mr. Trump spinning out on the advice of the last person in the room.
.. few know that he spent this past weekend talking the president down from an even more Planet Mars idea from Team Ross —to set tariffs closer to 50%.
.. Mr. Ross (a former steel executive) and the nativist Peter Navarro have driven out their biggest free-market opponent, increasing their ability to wreak harm on the economy.
The voices of those who actually understand economic policy are greatly diminished, as evidenced this week by the administration’s endless loop of fact-free and near fantastical claims about the effects of the tariffs.
His shabby treatment has more than a few of the grown-ups now actively considering their own exit plans. It’s one thing to do battle daily; it’s another to watch months of work get flushed on a whim, and get publicly branded a “globalist” to boot. Mr. Cohn’s top deputy, Jeremy Katz, departed just as soon as the tax deal passed, and watch for other Cohn staffers—many of them important free-market voices—to follow.
.. Imagine a Trump presidency without Mr. Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Jim Mattis, Don McGahn, Mick Mulvaney, Kevin Hassett. Consider, too, that no one as good is likely to replace them—now having seen how the White House works.
And don’t forget congressional Republicans, whom Mr. Trump has potentially set up for a midterm rout.
Many are furious that he has forced them to call him out, splitting the party. But they are also legitimately fearful the tariffs will spark trade war and destroy tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs, neutralizing the benefits of the hard-won tax reform.
The economy is the best thing Republicans have going for them in November, and the Trump-Ross-Navarro trio just embraced the only policy that could kill it.
Just how bad it is will depend hugely on Mr. Cohn’s successor.
.. Besides, who in his right mind would even want the job?
Whatever the case, Cohn couldn’t take it. His departure demolishes three theories, cherished by administration apologists, as to why the Trump presidency will be a success (or at the least not a disaster) despite the temperament of the man at the top.
Theory No. 1: The grown-ups are in charge.
- In the trade debate, Cohn lost out to the third-tier White House official Peter Navarro, who likes to hang around the West Wing in hopes of sneaking in to see the president.
- On immigration, 32-year old Michele Bachmann acolyte Stephen Miller runs the show.
- H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, is widely reported to be seeking an exit.
- His deputy Dina Powell already made her escape.
- Reince Priebus was once supposed to be a White House grown-up, and look at what happened to him. His successor,
- John Kelly, was supposed to quell the disorder, but has just as frequently contributed to it.
In most administrations, senior officials strive to stay in office a full term, or two years at the least. It’s supposed to be the honor of a lifetime.
Theory No. 2: Trump doesn’t believe his own crazy rhetoric.
The trade deficit has been a fixation of Trump’s since at least the 1980s.
- Withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was his first shot at it.
- Last week’s announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs were the second.
- Terminating Nafta will be his third.
.. What makes the tariff episode more alarming is that Trump announced the policy without any effort at a coherent policymaking process. It simply landed on Cohn much as news of a North Korean nuclear test might: radioactive and beyond his control. If Trump feels no compunction doing this to Cohn, what’s to stop him from behaving similarly with, say, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis?.. As for Russia, Bob Mueller’s probe into potential collusion has made foreign policy cooperation untenable — but that only holds as long as the probe continues.
Theory No. 3: Serious Republicans will contain Trump’s follies.
It’s nice to see Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham contradict the president on tariffs. But they and other so-called principled Republicans will surely fold on this, just as they have folded on immigration, the border wall and Trump himself.
.. Now the party’s steady transformation into an American version of France’s National Front is probably unstoppable.
Republicans unhappy with that drift — paging Nebraska Sen. Ben . Sasse — should leave while they can with honor intact. Gary Cohn’s exit isn’t just another resignation. It’s also a final warning.