WASHINGTON – Dear world: Please pay no attention to the man behind the golden drapes.
He doesn’t mean it.
“What?” you say. “Doesn’t mean what?”
Anything. Donald Trump doesn’t mean anything he says. At least not for long, so try not to react. Relax. Breathe. Wait.
Contra Trump, nothing worth doing is easy, including ignoring the president of the United States. But ignore him, you must, lest he interpret your reaction as a challenge, which he’d of course aim to win at all costs – even if winning is losing. Give leveler heads and reality checkers time to change his mind, which, in fact, is easy.
Consider what’s happened recently on the domestic front. In the wake of another school shooting, Trump said it was time to take action on gun reform, including raising the age of purchase to 21. He may truly have believed that reforming or strengthening gun laws was the right thing to do … until he didn’t.
Don’t worry, he’s not embarrassed. We all know why he seems to have changed his mind – politics, the disarming charms of the National Rifle Association, short attention span and so on. But the “why” doesn’t really matter. It’s always something, as we like to say in America.
Ditto DACA, the Deferred Action (I’ll say) for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as countless campaign promises. He clearly has had an influence on the economy, at least for market watchers, until along came the promised Tariff War.
The president himself spoke of a “war” as he defended plans to raise tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Never mind that the top four steel exporters to the U.S. are our neighbors (Canada at No. 1; and Mexico, No. 4) and allies Brazil and South Korea. Russia is fifth, with China 11th.
The top aluminum exporters to the U.S. are, again, Canada in first place, followed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and China. Given the double hit against Canada, perhaps things between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aren’t so swell after all? Or, just maybe, there’s no reasoning whatsoever to any of this.
Soon after Trump announced his plan, now adjusted to he’ll let us know next week, the Dow Jones plummeted more than 400 points, which it seems to do every time Trump opens his mouth lately. Friend and foe must be unamused and/or confused by this sudden punitive move, but they shouldn’t be.
A tip to the worried: Think of Trump as weather – which, by the way, became nearly biblical in the nation’s capital toward the end of a chaotic week. The U.S. government and surrounding schools shut down Friday because of hurricane-strength winds that, coincidentally, kicked up the same day that Billy Graham’s casket departed the U.S. Capitol. This strange phenomenon may not have been the wrath of God, specifically, but you can’t prove it wasn’t. Personally, I’m leaning toward the wrath of Melania.
As weather changes, so will Trump’s mind. Something will come along to capture his imagination, perhaps the insistent buzz of a wind-swept fly, whereupon the president will seize upon a new course of action, perhaps, say, a retreat on tariffs.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the first family.
Trump is nearly alone now. The White House has been hemorrhaging staff the past few months, with last week’s departures, perhaps, the toughest. Trump’s “other daughter” and confidante Hope Hicks turned in her resignation as White House communications director just one day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee regarding possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s operatives. Officially, the timing was purely coincidental – and Oz will be your second turn on the far right.
In another blow, son-in-law Jared Kushner lost his temporary classified status in the White House, thanks to business deals and loans he procured while acting in an official capacity. This effectively renders the erstwhile Middle East peace negotiator no more powerful than a reasonably reliable gossip. Shamed and embarrassed, how much longer will he and, more important, his wife and first daughter Ivanka stick around?
Plainly, tariffs had to be raised. At least until these dizzying winds subside, or someone reminds Trump that though 140,000 Americans hold jobs in the steel industry, largely in midterm-ripe Pennsylvania, another 6.5 million are employed by steel-using industries.
Relax. Breathe. Wait.
An American observer.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.