Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 8/26/19

Aug 26, 2019

POTUS retweeted a conspiracy claim by right-wing commentators that Bill Clinton was involved in the death of Mr. Epstein.  This is problematic on just so many levels, and demonstrates how little regard for facts that POTUS has.  I am sure his supporters will dismiss it, if not believe it.  Can you imagine the uproar if President Obama has done something similar?  When do we reach the tipping point, or did we go over so long ago that we no longer realize it?

Brexit is back in the news.  Mr. Johnson continues to threaten Britain’s withdrawal without a deal from the EU.  He seems to believe that he holds some threat over the Europeans, it is becoming increasingly clear that he has little or no leverage.  It is not that the Europeans don’t recognize that there will be some pain inflicted on them, but they believe the greater pain will be inflicted on England. Mr. Johnson, with his one seat majority, does not seem to understand either the practicable or political consequences of his actions.  If he thinks the EU will blink, he needs to take stock in what his actual position is on the continent and the world.  This is not the 17th century, but the 21st century. 

POTUS announced that he was postponing the 10% tariff on all Chinese goods until December 15th, in a nod to the holiday season and the retailors who need goods from China.  Of course, this has a positive effect for the Chinese, as well since it means that their export business will be robust during the fall season.   Some commentators have questioned whether those tariffs have been fully delayed.    If one assumes that the 10% tariff on all remaining Chinese goods will bring the Chinese to the bargaining table, but then you delay those tariffs because of pressure from US business,  it looks to me like the process is working on both sides of the equation which leaves little reason to believe that anyone will win this trade war.  We need to remember the fact that what the US is going after is major concessions from the Chinese on investments in China, required transfers of technology and other significant issues and there is no indication of movement by the Chinese.  So much for easy Trade War wins. 

POTUS is making a show of a big push on gun control, while his advisors and many conservative groups are getting anxious.  Polls indicate that ⅔’s of Americans are in favor of banning assault rifles, and support tighter controls with regard to background checks.  One interesting fact is that 46% of Republicans support these ideas, as well.  Is POTUS sensing a shift in America on some issues related to gun control, and if so, how far will he push.  Probably not far, one call from the NRA and POTUS is back peddling.  

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently about Joe Walsh a Congressman who came to office in 2010, and happened to have the office across the hall from mine.  Joe was a very conservative, anti-deficit and debt Tea Partier, who I got to know and to have interesting and friendly conversations with.  In response to the article, I went to his website and sent him an e-mail, and much to my surprise and you might say a pleasant one, he immediately e-mailed back.  His article in the Times was not particularly complimentary of Mr. Trump, nor of Republicans for their abandonment of issues related to control of the deficit and debt, a topic I have pointed out in these commentaries several times in the last few years.  I am sure that you might be surprised that a moderate Democrat would be able to have a constructive dialogue with a member of the Tea Party.  That is really the point; we might disagree philosophically and politically, but we still had respect for one another as individuals.  A little bit of a fun side note, Joe is a left-handed pitcher and I hit against him in the Congressional baseball game in Nats Park, doubling to left field.  Standing on second base, we smiled and tipped our hats to one another.  This is how it should be, in Congress, on the ball field and in life. 

The administration also announced this week the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan.  This is clearly an attempt to intimidate the Chinese.  This is not likely to work.  It may make them more angry, and it may make them more difficult to deal with in the trade negotiations, but it is not going to scare them very much.  If there is someone out there who understands the strategy at work here, it would be greatly appreciated if you would share it with me, and I can be reached at wowens@staffordowens.com.  

The top confounding news of this last week is hard to pick, of course. We have the President’s claim that he is interested in buying Greenland.  It wasn’t initially clear whether he intended to buy it for the Trump organization, or for the United States.  Greenland and Denmark have clearly indicated that Greenland is not for sale, nonetheless, the President’s advisors continue to assert that he is interested in this acquisition.  Given the number of difficult issues facing POTUS, many of them created by him, why are we looking at this?  Will we issue sanctions against Greenland and Denmark, or just invade?

Senator Chuck Grassley has roundly criticized the administration for granting exemptions to refineries to exclude ethanol which is a corn based fuel additive from the refining process.  Senator Grassley characterized these actions by the EPA as another devastating blow to farmers.  The administration’s approach in terms of tariffs and now ethanol seems intent upon injuring farmers who have been a strong source of his political support.  If you are looking for confounding, this ranks way up there.

Then, Mr. Trump announced recently that he thought he might give himself the Medal of Honor but was dissuaded by his aids. This is a person who received five deferments and never served in the military.  This so dishonors recipients of that medal who in almost every case risked or lost their lives for their fellow soldiers.  How any veteran can support Mr. Trump is beyond belief after this narcissistic act of nonsense.

And then we then have Mr. Trump saying everything is great in the economy, but we need a stimulus (a reduction in payroll taxes is what his current thinking is).    He must be shooting for the bone spurs in his feet with this one.

And then, POTUS accused Jewish people who vote for Democrats of being treasonous.  This is an old antisemitic trope.  This may be the worst of the week, but then again?

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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