Right On: Trump and GOP down to their last strike as midterms approach

Composite stock image, St. George News

OPINION — President Trump swung and missed badly on two opportunities this summer and has fouled off another one. With the count 0-2, he’s facing a tough pitcher: this fall’s election.

I applauded Trump’s home run earlier in the game. By nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he lived up to his campaign promise and gave conservatives of all stripes something to cheer about.

But this summer he’s whiffed twice and looked bad doing it.

Strike one: Separating young children from their illegal immigrant parents at the border was a political disaster. Yes, I know it follows the letter of the law. Yes, I know it was intended to discourage other illegals planning to follow. And yes, I know a crackdown on illegal immigration was another of Trump’s campaign promises.

But why young kids? Even a political novice should have been able to anticipate the photo ops: tearful mothers and kids with frightened looks on their faces. These images provided weeks of headlines for the liberal media, plenty of ammunition for Democrats and a naturally sympathetic public to soak it all in.

Offering up another round of headlines and photo ops, government officials were unable to find where they’d sent all the kids when a judge ordered families reunited. They’d acted so quickly when the original order came down that when the judge reversed the process midstream, paper-trail havoc followed.

Trump is willful and likely ignored advice from more experienced political advisers. The result: political damage of the first order.

Strike two: Trotting off to see Vladimir Putin almost on a whim. Trump values personal relationships and sees himself as master of the deal. What could go wrong?

Just about everything. Standing next to Putin, he denied the overwhelming evidence of Russian meddling in our elections. In so doing, he discredited and demeaned the nation’s intelligence and anti-espionage communities (not to mention Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg), leaving his own appointed officials flabbergasted.

On his return, he initially backed off. Then, leading again with his ego, he dug in against his critics.

A summit meeting may have been warranted; certainly the two countries have plenty to talk about. But our differences are deep-seated and we have sanctions in place on Russia for annexing the Crimea. A lot of behind-the-scenes groundwork by White House and cabinet staffers was needed to establish the summit’s framework. Even the joint communiques issued after such meetings summarizing the results are drafted and coordinated in advance.

For Trump, the summit had an extra layer of political risk. He’s had business interests in Russia. He had kind words for Putin during his campaign. Members of his campaign staff have been indicted for supposed illegal business dealings with the Ukraine. And 20 months of media stories claim that if it hadn’t been for Russian meddling in the election, Hillary Clinton would be president today.

Treason? No. Diplomatic ineptness? Yes.  Political disaster? Of the first magnitude.

Facing his third pitch of the summer, Trump has fouled one off on tariffs.

Today’s tariffs are stacked against us. For example, Americans pay 2.5 percent duties on European automobile imports; Europeans pay 10 percent on American auto imports. Trump suggested eliminating all tariffs, trade barriers and subsidies. There were no takers.

He’s absolutely correct that other countries have more to lose than we do. Sure there will be some economic pain in various U.S. industries. Consumers will pay more for some products whether they are imported or produced domestically. But greater pain will be felt by our trading partners, inducing them to bargain.

China creates different problems. Its $300 billion annual trade surplus with us provides Americans a variety of consumer goods at low prices. Nonetheless, the surplus is staggering and unsustainable in the long run.

Economist John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run, we are all dead.” What may be dead in the long run are the fruits of American innovation and creativity.

China requires American companies to transfer technical know-how and intellectual property if they want to do business there. Many have done it: the size of China’s market makes it an irresistible target.

What China can’t get by coercion, it steals by hacking American companies’ computer systems.

So call Trump’s tariffs a foul ball. He’s still at the plate with either a hit or a strikeout looming.

All this Sturm und Drang makes for a turbulent election season this fall.

The economy is possibly as good as it’s ever been in our lifetimes. Republicans can expect a positive response from most voters to the proverbial question, “Are you better off than you were two years ago?”

But Trump Resistance has turned out to be more of a political winner than many expected – including me – when it first raised its ugly head. Democrats will run against Trump this fall even though he’s not on the ballot.

Certainly the House and possibly the Senate hang in the balance. And with the Senate rides the prospects of a third Trump Supreme Court nominee should an opening occur.

The political instincts that earned Trump an unexpected victory last year have failed him this summer. They’ve turned what should have been a Republican victory lap into a cliffhanger.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Kilroywashere July 26, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Forget baseball analogies. 30 days away from College Football season. You clearly suffer from Trump derangement syndrome. I’m not worried at all, and so far he has clearly beat expectations, especially if you have a 401k. Bottom line, he’s not a LAWYER, nor did he graduate from an Ivy League school , a rarity these days for Presidents.

  • cindybanks91 July 26, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    Your first point is factually correct, yet totally wrong. The child trafficking going on this nation is out of control. Until it can be proven that the child is really a blood relative, which requires DNA testing they cannot release the children. The number of children who are coming in without their parents is up over 300%. Where have you been. The child shown in media hype, was never taken from her mother. You must know that by now.

    As to the tariffs, the President has been studying this problem for thirty years and you will find in the end that he is right. That the tariffs need to stop completely. That is fair trade. And he will win this too, you can’t judge this one yet again it is hyped without much thought to long term where they finally give up. We can wait them out. Let’s common sense here.

  • dodgers July 26, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Exactly Kilroy. I think Howard might have been hit by a pitch, is in a daze, head spinning, not thinking clearly. The economy is BOOMING. Trump is getting our enemies and allies in line, and will end up with significantly improved trade policies. These are just a few of his home runs thus far, MUCH more Gorsuch to SCOTUS. Meanwhile Mueller is still looking for a crime, the heads of the left keep spinning and our President Trump’s approval numbers are rising. Life is good, again.

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