Romney: Trump's trade-war brinksmanship is showing China that business has to change

Mitt Romney, Trumpy trade warrior, eh?

In light of today’s troubling protectionist cheerleading by Mitt, I regret to inform you that Salon Conservatives Club is hereby retracting its endorsement of him in Utah. We’re now urging everyone to write in “if Jeff Flake and Evan McMullin had a baby” instead.

By the way, wasn’t Romney … a bit of a trade warrior with China in 2012, too?

“I think the president is leading with some policies that will wake up our friends in China and they’ll recognize that business as usual is going to have to change,” the former Republican presidential nominee said. “China over the years has taken advantage of the attitude in America, which is we haven’t watched very closely and they’ve been cheating.”…

A massive trade war with countries placing tariffs on each other would not be good, Romney said.

“I don’t think we’re going to go there,” he said.

Oh, we’re going. The whole point of China slapping retaliatory tariffs on key U.S. agricultural exports instead of more marginal goods was to warn Trump that it’s not going to be intimidated. Now that Trump’s chattering about another $100 billion in tariffs, the sky’s the limit on how far this will go. The market knows, even if Romney doesn’t yet:

If Trump moves forward with the next round of tariffs, how does China hit back? Rare-earth metals? Treasuries? Or the nuclear option — an indefinite ban on all Trump-branded products?

It could be that POTUS is carrying out a closely held master plan, turning the vise on tariffs carefully knowing that he has a trump card (pun intended) that’ll surprise the Chinese and make them capitulate on protection for U.S. intellectual property. It could also be that he’s binging on Big Macs and “Judge Jeanine” reruns and just wingin’ it, newly confident that all he needs to do is show enough “strength” and everything will work out:

To White House insiders, this is the most dangerous phase of Donald Trump’s presidency so far, from the brewing trade war with China that he denies is a trade war, to the perilously spontaneous summit with North Korea.

Checks are being ignored or have been eliminated, and critics purged as the president is filling time by watching Fox, and by eating dinner with people who feed his ego and conspiracy theories, and who drink in his rants. Both sides are getting more polarized and dug in — making the daily reality more absurd, and the potential consequences less urgent and able to grab people’s serious attention.

Trump’s closest confidants speak with an unusual level of concern, even alarm, and admit to being confused about what the president will do next — and why.

“I don’t think we’re going to go there,” said Mitt Romney, confidently.

Republicans are whispering to POTUS that a trade war wouldn’t be helpful to the party’s chances this fall. That’s another risk Trump is taking, a small one compared to the potential economic and foreign policy fallout but a risk nonetheless. In the orgy of recriminations that’ll inevitably follow a GOP midterm beating, supply-siders will point the finger at his protectionist saber-rattling as a key cause and some voters will agree. Give Trump credit at least for having the courage of his convictions: The safe political play would have been to start throwing around tariffs next spring, with the midterms safely behind him. He’s gambling the party’s electoral chances on his vision.

Here he is on the radio this morning warning Americans to expect “a little pain” economically to come. Gotta take the protectionist medicine by effectively taxing your own industries if you want to MAGA. Exit quotation from Romney, asked if he still stands by all the insults he heaped on Trump in 2016: “I look forward. I’m not going to look backward.” He’ll make a fine Secretary of State in 2020.