US Politics: Inauguration & Coronation
Friday is Inauguration Day: President-elect Donald Trump will become President Donald Trump. He already has stirred things up quite a bit since Election Day.
He has made it clear that there won’t be any difference in his styles as candidate, president-elect, and president. He is on track to be one of the most disruptive presidents in our country’s history.
The Great Disruptor’s detractors are more convinced than ever that he is nuts. Their agitated attempts to delegitimize his election are starting to border on an attempted coup. He responds to them by doing more to drive them mad.
I wonder what Polonius would have thought of Trump? After listening to a rant by Hamlet, the old courtier muttered in an aside: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.” Imagine Hamlet with a Twitter account. By the way, speaking of royal courts, if you loved “Downton Abbey,” you’ll love “Victoria.” Needless to say, it is about Queen Victoria, who landed on the British throne when she was just 18 years old. According to the first episode, there was lots of intrigue in the Court and Parliament aimed at declaring the headstrong new monarch insane, both before and after her coronation, and to have her mother appointed as Crown Regent. There were even leaks to the MSM of the time. Odds are that the current charges of Trump’s madness will continue after his inauguration right through the end of his first term.
I am certainly seeing method in the madness of Trump’s sworn enemies. They want to overthrow him, or at least obstruct his every move. I’m seeing method in what appears to Trump’s opponents to be his madness. For starters, he has picked very able people for his Cabinet. They may be controversial, but Cabinet picks always get nitpicked by the opposition party. However, Trump’s choices are very experienced in business, particularly in negotiating deals.
While I am philosophically opposed to the President-elect’s bullying of corporations, his in-your-face approach is bringing manufacturing facilities and some jobs back to the US. Already, corporations such as United Technologies, Ford, GM, Walmart, Sprint, and Hyundai are kissing Trump’s ring. They have pledged to hire more workers and to invest more in the US. He is certainly making good on one of his key campaign promises to his loyal base of voters, who have been mad as heck about all the jobs that have gone abroad.
I am also philosophically opposed to protectionism. However, renegotiating trade deals to make them fairer and calling out abusive practices by our trading partners is okay by me. I’m not a fan of the border adjustment tax, mostly because it seems too protectionist, and frankly too confusing. So I was pleased to read the following in a 1/16 WSJ article:
“President-elect Donald Trump criticized a cornerstone of House Republicans’ corporate-tax plan, which they had pitched as an alternative to his proposed import tariffs, creating another point of contention between the incoming president and congressional allies. The measure, known as border adjustment, would tax imports and exempt exports as part of a broader plan to encourage companies to locate jobs and production in the U.S. But Mr. Trump, in his first comments on the subject, called it ‘too complicated.’ ‘Anytime I hear border adjustment, I don’t love it,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday. ‘Because usually it means we’re going to get adjusted into a bad deal. That’s what happens.’”
I may be reaching for signs of method in his madness, but I hear Trump saying he wants better, fairer trade deals rather than protectionism. While he intends to make America great again, he must know that the US economy is currently great. There can be no doubt that it is much stronger and in much better shape than either China’s or Russia’s, and certainly Iran’s and North Korea’s. As a dealmaker, Trump must know about the weaknesses in the economies of America’s major adversaries. They know all this too. However, for the past eight years, they’ve been allowed to play to their strengths, amplified by their mastery of the dark arts of coercion and propaganda. There’s a new sheriff in town, and I expect he will prey on the weaknesses of America’s adversaries.
The outlines of deals are starting to form. In a 1/16 interview with The Times of London, he offered the Russians a deal: The US will end sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea if they agree on a mutual reduction of nuclear arms. There’s no deal outline for China yet, but it will probably be contingent on them backing off from their ambitions to own the South China Sea. In exchange, the US might back off from retaliating against China as a currency manipulator.
Trump already seems to be working on strengthening his position for deal-making on numerous fronts. Love or hate his tweets, they project fearlessness, keep his adversaries off-kilter, and cause other nations’ leaders to hang on his every chirp for clues to their future US relations.
He projects fearlessness, for example, by not heeding China’s escalating threats and warnings; blowing off North Korea’s nuclear threat with a simple dismissive “It won’t happen!” tweet; flouting diplomatic convention by criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigrant policy; making paradigm-resetting statements about Russian-US relations, the list goes on. The more fearless and reckless he seems, the more he seems to unnerve his rivals.
Note, for example, how his every China-related tweet seems to provoke a stronger reaction from Chinese officials. He is unsettling rival nations, bringing out their worst fears, before negotiations even begin. In other words, there may be method to his madness. The fact that his name is “Trump” couldn’t be more apt!
Dr. Ed Yardeni is the President of Yardeni Research, Inc., a provider of independent global investment strategy research.
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