We have been pretty consistent that Steve Mnuchin is not great at being Treasury Secretary, but we just saw a performance that left us breathlessly asking "What the fuck was that?!"
At the end of one of the most turbulent weeks that the markets have seen in quite some time, with everyone flipping out about President Trump's unquenchable thirst to start a trade war with China and a little freaked by the notion that Trump is looking to settle a private score by purposefully damaging a massive corporation, Secretary The Mnooks went on CNBC's "Power Lunch" to do what Treasury Secretaries do, use cogent guidance like a steady stream of water to douse the flames of uncertainty smoldering along Wall Street.
But this is Steve Mnuchin, so he just parroted back much of the conflicting Trumpian information that has traders in a panic. Instead of a steady stream of policy water, Mnuchin basically pissed kerosene on the markets by seemingly saying whatever came into his head behind that discomfiting dead-eyed stare of his.
For instance, there is a lot of posturing between the White House and China right now on tariffs, but everyone knows that Trump likes to run his mouth and do nothing. If Larry Kudlow has taught anyone in this White House anyhitng in the last 48 hours, it's be careful about throwing around the phrase "Trade war."
When soothing the markets, it's all about what you don't say. Right Steve-O?
"Our objective is still not to be in a trade war with [China]," Mnuchin said on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be able to work this out."
Clever. Now just leave it there and try to get to 4pm without a total panic...
But, he added, "there is the potential of a trade war."
Nice job, dipshit.
And when pressed by Steve Liesman to clarify if the US Government is currently negotiating in with China after a number of mixed signals being sent out by various members of the White House and Chinese officials, Mnuchin was evasive in the way that high school sophomores who didn't study for the pop quiz are evasive. Liesman even went as far as to ask point blank if Mnuchin could confirm that anyone form our government is talking to China, he resisted any concrete statement other than that he and the president are on it.
The interview took place a little after 1pm and you can almost see exactly how the DJIA responded to Mnuchin's claim that "Me and The Donald got this..."
But at least talking about a trade war with China got Steve off the hook from dealing with this Amazon bullshit, right?
"Amazon pays sales tax on their own account, but doesn't pay it on the third-party business. We don't think that makes sense," Mnuchin said.
Oh, well that's a bummer for all the people who were calmed by the White House letting it be known that there was no plan in the works to take concrete action against Amazon because the president has a vendetta against Jeff Bezos. But maybe Mnuchin just misspoke and then clarified that Trump isn't unduly focused on hurting Amazon?
"[Amazon has] absolutely dominated the retail business, they've put tons of retailers out of business," Mnuchin said. "The president is focused on Amazon and the economic issues that are impacting retailers all around the country."
Holy shit, he is so bad at this.