No complaints here. Having Kudlow in a position of influence should come as a relief to every free-marketeer who feared Trump was about to fall irretrievably under the spell of a trade-warrior crank like Peter Navarro. I can understand why a Republican president would take a shine to him.
But why Trump would take a shine to him? No idea. Or at least, no idea from a policy perspective. The guy’s most recent column is titled “Tariffs Are Taxes,” for cripes sake.
Larry Kudlow on Wednesday accepted an offer from President Trump to head the White House’s National Economic Council, according to three people familiar with the decision…
Kudlow, 70, is described by White House officials as someone who connects with the president personally and politically. Kudlow, born and raised in New Jersey, shares with Trump a hard-charging personality and a fondness for being a media figure and both have hosted television programs. Kudlow has also been an informal Trump adviser over the past year.
He was also an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign and worked closely with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the design of an initial tax plan.
If you’re worried about the end of NAFTA or the start of a global trade war, having Kudlow inside the Oval Office whispering in Trump’s ear should make you sleep easier at night. (Three days ago he “predicted” that Europe will end up being exempted from Trump’s new tariffs. Whew.) If you’re *not* worried about trade wars, if in fact you’d like to see NAFTA blown up — and a whole lot of Trump voters do — then what’s the point of this appointment? A few days ago, having announced the steel and aluminum tariffs and bid “globalist” Gary Cohn farewell, it looked like Trump was all set to go Full Metal Nationalist. He got elected with votes from working-class whites who wanted to see a tilt towards protectionism in the name of preserving U.S. jobs. Now, in year two, Trump was about to deliver. He had stopped listening to his swampy establishment advisors and was intent on doing things his way.
And now, suddenly, a Reaganite supply-sider like Kudlow is top man on the White House’s economic totem pole. W-w-what?
I assume the spin here will be that Trump is building a “team of rivals,” with Kudlow prepared to square off with Navarro and Wilbur Ross in a battle for the president’s economic soul. (Trump: “We don’t agree on everything, but I think in this case I think that’s good because I want a divergent opinion.”) Okay, I guess, but is that why steelworkers and coal miners voted for Trump? To send him to Washington and let the nationalists and “globalists” joust to see who should prevail in U.S. policy? Trump had a particular vision, yet he keeps staffing up with people who don’t share the most unorthodox parts of it, the parts that seemingly gave him a decisive advantage over generic conservatives in the GOP presidential primaries.
And not just in matters of economic policy, either. As one Twitter pal said yesterday, between Mike Pompeo’s elevation at State and the growing likelihood of John Bolton joining the administration, Trump seems to be re-creating a Marco Rubio White House of superhawks. Is that what his nationalist fans wanted?
Or did his nationalist fans essentially vote for the idea “In Trump We Trust,” indifferent to actual policy so long as POTUS is happy with the course of action he’s taking?
Weirder still, Politico reported just yesterday that Trump is already eyeing aggressive new tariffs on China, which will really get a trade war cookin’. Now here’s free-trader Kudlow ready to climb aboard the Trump train. They’re old friends who’ve moved in the same cable-news circles for years so it’s not out of left field that Trump would think about bringing him onto his team, but it would have made more sense at the start of his administration when he was listening to supply-siders. Not in year two, when he’s taken a turn towards the left.
I wouldn’t ask this with any other president, but … is it as simple as the fact that he sees Kudlow on TV a lot and Kudlow (almost) always has nice things to say about him, policy be damned? He’ll be “loyal,” and loyalty’s more important than global economic policy, I guess. God help us if Trump fires Jeff Sessions and decides to use cable news as a shortlist in filling that vacancy too.
Here’s Kudlow on CNBC just a few days ago eviscerating the new tariffs. Congrats to Trump fans on the new appointee.