Monday, June 11, 2018

Signaling Weakness

At his news conference in Charlevoix on Saturday, President Trump complained

So two things can happen on NAFTA. We’ll either leave it the way it is, as a threesome deal with Canada and with the United States and Mexico, and change it very substantially — we’re talking about very big changes. Or we’re going to make a deal directly with Canada and directly with Mexico. Both of those things could happen.

If a deal isn’t made, that would be a very bad thing for Canada and it would be a very bad thing for Mexico. For the United States, frankly, it would be a good thing. But I’m not looking to do that. I’m not looking to play that game.

(Nice little country you have there, Canada. It would be a shame if something happened to it.)

It was later in the day that

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would with "absolute certainty" impose retaliatory measures on July 1 to answer Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum. He said the argument that Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum are a matter of national security are "kind of insulting." Trudeau said Canadians are nice but added, "We will not be pushed around.

While still at the conference, the boldly politically incorrect American president agreed to sign the joint communique with the other six men and women. It was not until he was safely in the air, where he would not have to look the other leaders in the eye, that the tough guy with beer muscles emerged and there were these:

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow blasted Trudeau later Saturday and then

Trudeau “really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, calling on the Canadian to apologize to Trump.

The U.S. helped negotiate the joint communique and was “very close to making a deal with Canada” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Kudlow said. But the Canadian prime minister’s post-conference criticism Saturday was “a betrayal” that Trump needed to respond to, to avoid showing weakness on the eve of talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he added.

“He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea, nor should he,” Kudlow said of Trump. “Kim must not see American weakness.”

These guys sure know how to drive a deal. Not only are they kissing up to one of the world's worst dictators by blasting an ally, they are telling Kim Jong Un that they are doing it only to prevent the President from appearing weak.  Kudlow, paraphrased: We are weak, Kim, but we'll pretend to be strong. Transparency in the age of Trump is showing America's hand, revealing its strategy. (Can he loathe this country any more?)

It's also Trump-style political correctness. Face-to-face with his adversaries (American allies), he was anxious to avoid confrontation and agreed to sign the joint communique. Once he was able to escape, he found courage.

Roaring like a lion when it's safe, the coward keeps up the act.

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