The number of discrete goods traded between the U.S. and Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan probably rivals the number of possible moves in a chess game. But from Trump, you'll repeatedly hear only one — Canada's dairy products, reportedly tariffed at 270 percent. The president's dairy bugbear is wildly unrepresentative of the overall trade picture, of course. As Paul Krugman notes, "The European Union, for example, levies an average tariff of only three percent on US goods." This is what Trump calls "ridiculous and unacceptable."
Surely, someone has pointed out to Trump — calling Larry Kudlow? — that, all in all, we're hardly being reamed by the European Union, and that we impose our own "ridiculous" tariffs on certain goods, such as light trucks (a hefty 25 percent, which is known as the "chicken tax," a retaliatory tariff placed on foreign trucks in the 1960s after the European Economic Community slapped higher tariffs on American chickens).
Why would Trump remorselessly finger one product (in addition to German automobiles) and hammer our allies over the wildly unrepresentative? Simple. His base eats it up. He's willing to destroy the global order, launch multiple trade wars and damage the U.S. economy in exchange for cheers from the lowest-information voters. It's an outright betrayal of American interests as well as American consumers — and Trump doesn't give a damn. Whatever benefits the Donald politically is all that counts.
Some observers are questioning if Trump will wreck the rules-based order in place since the Second World War. No matter how strenuously Trump answers in the affirmative, they keep asking. What does he have to do to convince these bemused souls that he's serious about upending world stability? Call the prime minister of our geographically closest ally "Very dishonest & weak"? Well, that's unthinkable, but in time he'll do something that provides a clear answer, once and for all.
Trump also called for penalized Russia to be readmitted to the G-7, which only makes sense, since in POTUS's diseased mind, Obama was responsible for Putin's invasion and annexation of Crimea. What's been overlooked in most news reporting is that last Friday, Trump's director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, warned a gathering of the Atlantic Council that "Russia had already undertaken an 'unprecedented influence campaign to interfere in the US electoral and political process' in 2016"; it has "also meddled in France, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Ukraine"; now it's "2018, and we continue to see Russian targeting of American society in ways that could affect our midterm elections."
Trump's own DNI was alerting the world as to Russia's international malevolence just hours before Trump called for coddling the despicable regime. Mr. Coats must wonder why he bothers showing up for work.
Trump's policy is more than one of "Russia First." The Times' David Leonhardt quotes Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "Beijing can’t believe its luck. The isolation of the United States serves to reinforce China’s narrative that the United States is an unreliable partner, and it helps advance Beijing’s goals of weakening governance mechanisms like the G-7 that don’t include China."
It's as heartbreaking as it is infuriating. All great powers ultimately slide into an era of decline, but never has a superpower willingly and so ignorantly resigned its place of supremacy in the world order. America First? Before Trump is through, it'll be more like America Dead Last.