On Thursday morning, shrieking madman Rick Santelli (who, for the last goddamn time, is not going to "subsidize the losers' mortgages"), hosted China windmill tilter (and aspiring documentary filmster) Peter Navarro on CNBC for a segment about Trump's ongoing effort to start a global trade war.
The serious among you were thus forced to begrudgingly turn away from Bloomberg TV for a few minutes on the off chance anything of substance ended up coming out of what turned into a characteristically farcical exchange between a washed up floor trader whose job description is feigning anger whenever the camera is on and a man who has for years been the laughing stock of the academic community.
Given the people involved, that turned out about like you would have expected, and I wanted to highlight the rather stark contrast between fantasy (as articulated by Navarro) and reality (as ironically articulated by Donald Trump himself yesterday).
Towards the end of the segment, Santelli threw Navarro (another) softball that basically amounted to Rick asking Peter if Trump was going to be able to work out all the details (i.e. the "carve outs" and the exemptions) in an expedient way. Here are some highlights from CNBC's transcript:
SANTELLI: THERE'S GOING TO BE COUNTRIES EXPORTING. THEY'RE GOING TO WANT EXEMPTIONS, EXCEPTIONS, AND CARVE-OUTS. AND I KNOW BASED ON SOME OF THE RECENT HEADLINES, AND YOU CAN TELL ME IF YOU FEEL DIFFERENTLY, THAT WE ARE GOING TO PROBABLY PASS A FEW OF THOSE OUT. WILL THAT PROCEDURE BE TRUMP-LIKE? IN OTHER WORDS, NO RED TAPE, IT'S NOT GOING TO TAKE FOREVER, IT'S NOT GOING TO BE BUREAUCRATIC, THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE AN EFFICIENT WAY TO IMPLEMENT ESPECIALLY THE CARVE-OUTS, EXCEPTIONS, AND EXEMPTIONS.
NAVARRO: THIS IS TRUMP TIME, RICK. WE DO THINGS DIFFERENT HERE. I THINK YOU'VE SEEN THAT. THE FIRST YEAR -- LOOK, RICK, THE FIRST YEAR OF THIS PRESIDENCY HAS BEEN ONE OF THE BEST YEARS IN THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM – ANY PRESIDENT OF HISTORY – THIS IS HISTORY. IT'S AMAZING.
SANTELLI: OH, I'M WITH YOU. PETER, YOUR BOSS IS CUT FROM A DIFFERENT MOLD. I GET IT AND MAYBE THIS IS EXACTLY THE TYPE OF PERSON WE NEED BECAUSE THESE THINGS AREN'T EASY.
Yes, Trump is indeed "cut from a different mold", Rick, although based on how Trump himself described his trade negotiation strategy at a private fundraising event in Missouri on Wednesday evening, I'm not sure it would be accurate to say he's "exactly the type of person we need" when it comes to "these things [that] aren't easy."
Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ”. Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.
… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’
There you go America - "exactly the type of person we need".
The type of person who goes into trade negotiations devoid of familiarity with even the most basic facts, only to try and bluff another world leader while simultaneously calling America "so stupid" in the same breath.
Believe it or not, that wasn't the silliest thing Trump said in that fundraising speech. He also said the following about Japan and bowling balls:
We send a car to Japan, they analyze it for four weeks before they decide to send it back because it’s not environmentally friendly. … One of the car companies actually had a car made and it was the most environmentally perfect car, cost them a fortune. They spent a fortune. … But they wanted to see if they could get it in [to Japan]. And it, they were going crazy. Four days went by. Then five days. And they were ready to approve it and they said, no, no, we have to do one more test. It’s called the bowling-ball test, do you know what that is? That’s where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car. And if the hood dents, then the car doesn’t qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible, the way we’re treated. It’s horrible.
There again: "exactly the type of person we need." The type of person who leans on anecdotes he heard from God knows who probably twenty years ago to make decisions that affect global trade and commerce. And according to one reporter, this isn't an isolated (or maybe "isolationist" is better) incident.
Yes, "no one knows exactly", but it's at least possible it's based on a David Letterman segment.
Other theories abound, but the fact that anyone is even having a discussion about where the President of the United States might have gotten a story about Japanese trade reps dropping bowling balls on cars speaks volumes about the extent to which this situation has devolved into the absurd. Further, the idea that this apparent figment of Trump's imagination is part of his decision calculus on global trade is mind boggling.
Meanwhile, the new adult in the room at 1600 Penn. is supposed to be Larry Kudlow, and here's what he had to say about China on Wednesday afternoon:
A thought that I have is the United States could lead a coalition of large trading partners and allies against China, or to let China know that they're breaking the rules left and right. That's the way I'd like to see. You call it a sort of a trade coalition of the willing.
As CNBC notes (read: admits), that's "an apparent reference to President George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing' in the war against Iraq."
Pardon me, but I'm not sure the optics are great there, Larry. Is that how you want to pitch this crackdown on China? By conjuring memories of the time America embarked on one of the most ill-fated expeditions in military history under false pretenses only to end up stuck in a 15-year quagmire that inadvertently spawned the worst terrorist scourge of all time?
Of course what do you expect? This is the same Larry Kudlow who said this on December 7, 2007 or, as you might remember it, the month that the Great Recession technically incepted:
There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.
These guys are going to wind up with egg on their faces.
Can I interest you in some Eggs Benedict Larry? That sounds like some shit you might have eaten back in the good old days.
Getting back to Santelli and Navarro, here's how Rick left things:
A MAN LIKE TRUMP, WHETHER YOU LIKE HIS STYLE OR NOT, HAS THE RIGHT STYLE TO PEEL AN ONION POLITICALLY, GLOBALLY, FINANCIALLY.
No arguments there, Rick. After all, whether it's politics, global affairs, or finance (in the form of multiple business bankruptcies), Trump does indeed have "the right style to peel an onion".
Because when you peel an onion, everyone ends up in tears.