I always felt the British are very good at laughing at themselves. The Americans are better at laughing at other people. I still think it’s pretty true, but it’s changing because now we can’t laugh at anybody because it causes offense. There’s a kind of egotism out there: “Oh, they were making fun of me.” Never heard of you. I’m making fun of an idea.
Seth takes a closer look at President Trump’s crazy solo press conference where he defended his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, from sexual assault allegations.
A jab at Reagan?
Donald Trump once spent nearly $100,000 to place a full-page advertisement criticizing U.S. foreign policy in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.
“There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure,” the ad’s headline blares. Below, the reader finds “an open letter from Donald J. Trump” — addressed “To The American People” — “on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves.”
.. “For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States,” the letter declares. “The saga continues unabated as we defend the Persian Gulf, an area of only marginal significance to the United States for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent.”
“Why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?” the ad continues.
“The world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.”
.. Trump writes that Americans could “help our farmers, our sick, our homeless by taking from some of the greatest profit machines ever created — machines created and nurtured by us.”
“‘Tax’ these wealthy nations, not America,” suggests the tycoon. “End our huge deficits, reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom.”
“Let’s not let our great country be laughed at any more,” Trump’s letter concludes.
.. At the time the ad ran, there was speculation that Trump might oppose George H.W. Bush for the Republican nomination for president. The same day the ads ran, an article elsewhere in the Times reported that the developer had scheduled a trip to New Hampshire.
Other than Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the lone remaining enforcer is Kelly. But his power as chief of staff has been diminished. Officials said the days of Kelly hovering in the Oval Office morning to night and screening the president’s calls are over. Trump is largely circumventing Kelly’s strict protocols.
The president recently reached out to some people Kelly had sought to excommunicate, calling former communications director Anthony Scaramucci to banter about politics and inviting Lewandowski and Bossie to dinner in the residence.
“He’s rotating back to the people who actually like him and is more willing to take advice from those people,” Scaramucci said. “They’re more honest with him, and he’s more comfortable with them.”
Allies said Trump is reverting to the way he led the Trump Organization from his 26th-floor office suite at Trump Tower in Manhattan. There, staffers were functionaries or lawyers, and many of his advisers were outside the company — rival business leaders, media figures and bankers. Back then, Trump controlled his orbit himself from behind his cluttered desk, relying on assistant Rhona Graff to field calls.
.. Ascendant in the West Wing are advisers who play to Trump’s gut: Kudlow on tax cuts and deregulation, Bolton on a muscular approach to foreign affairs, Peter Navarro on protectionist trade policies, Stephen Miller on crackdowns on undocumented immigrants and Kellyanne Conway on an open press strategy and tangling with reporters.
.. Like Conway, Bolton and Kudlow are seasoned cable news commentators who share Trump’s hard-charging instincts and have no illusions about his governing style. Officials said they are expected to cater to the president’s wishes and seek to avoid the internal knife fights that have befallen many a Trump aide.
.. “Gary was really good, but I don’t know if Gary ever embraced the Trump economic ideas. He was more of a traditional Democrat or moderate Republican. Kudlow is a real cheerleader for the tax cuts in a way Gary never was, although he helped get them passed.”
.. Trump has been frustrated by news stories of White House tumult and has ordered aides to contest the notion that there is chaos.
.. “The top story, number one, is Stormy Daniels,” King said he told Trump. “I told him it’s utterly ridiculous. I just came back from Hamburg, Germany, and they were just laughing at us.”
On most policy issues, when President Trump states his position, you can tell that he’s blurting out an unformed idea that is always subject to change. No one is really surprised when, a day or an hour later, he says the exact opposite, because when it comes to policy, generally speaking, he doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.
There is one exception, however: trade... Free trade has widely distributed benefits and concentrated costs, while a tariff like this one that is meant to help a particular industry has concentrated benefits and widely distributed costs... There have always been two core ideas underlying his beliefs on trade. The first is that trade is a zero-sum contest in which the only goal is exporting goods. If we import something from another country, even if comparative advantage makes it perfectly reasonable for us to do so, then the other country has “won” and the United States has “lost.”.. Trump’s second idea about trade is that it represents a kind of contest of pride, even manhood. When he talks about trade he nearly always says that other countries, particularly China, are “laughing at us.” When we, say, buy cheap consumer goods from abroad, it means we’re the sucker, the sap, the patsy... Yet you’ve never heard Trump say exactly which provisions of NAFTA he dislikes or what he would change, probably because he doesn’t know himself. He just thinks that trade wars are good, and easy to win... Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, tried to argue to him that increased tariffs would hurt the economy by raising prices on goods that contain steel and aluminum, to which Trump replied that it’s “a small price to pay.” Since he sees this issue to be about not just jobs but even more importantly about pride and dignity, that won’t persuade him.
From where Trump stands, imposing the tariffs is an end in itself. It shows those foreigners that we won’t be taken advantage of, that we’re big and strong, that nobody’s going to laugh at us and get away with it. It’s “winning.” Even if we wind up losing.