A great story for the anniversary of D-Day, when the Canadians took 1000 casualties on Juno Beach fighting alongside America to liberate Europe.
On the spectrum of “dead serious” to “obvious joke” I’d guess this is somewhere between “obvious joke” and “kidding on the square.” The call was reportedly “testy” and it came during a war of words between the White House and Canada over steel and aluminum tariffs. Trump can be very funny but typically not when he’s annoyed. When he’s “testy” he tends to turn cold. (Remember the non-handshake with Merkel?) And his sense of grievance, both national and personal, is robust to put it mildly. If anyone might conceivably reach back to the War of 1812 to try to score a point on Canada, he’s the guy.
But really, that seems a grievance-bridge too far even for him. Anyway, his trade policy is awful:
According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a “national security” issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the War of 1812.
The problem with Trump’s comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.
When asked if the comment was received as a joke, one source on the call said: “To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the US won’t be a laughing matter.”
Leave it to CNN to do an “actually…” fact-check on the War of 1812 when reporting on a bizarre diplomatic mess. This makes me wonder what Trump might have said to Emmanuel Macron, with whom he also recently had a “terrible” phone call on trade. It’s all too easy to imagine him telling Macron that he’d be speaking German right now if not for us. To which Macron might have replied that Trump would be speaking with a British accent if not for France.
A new poll from Morning Consult shows the public is split on whether to support the tariffs but less split on whether they think they’ll be good or bad for the economy. Just 35 percent say good versus 45 percent who say bad. Even many Republicans, in other words, are leery of where tariffmania will end up — so leery that we may be headed for a rare act of defiance by our Republican-held Congress. Trump’s frenemy, Bob Corker, is working on a bill that would make the president’s power to level tariffs in the name of national security subject to congressional approval. He’s hoping to add it as an amendment to the coming must-pass defense authorization bill. Normally an effort to override a Trump policy would be DOA in the House and Senate but there may be enough bipartisan consensus on trade to make this interesting:
The Tennessee Republican said on Tuesday that his legislation could be introduced as soon as that afternoon. The bill would require approval from Congress within 60 days before the administration could set proposed Section 232 tariffs in place. CNN’s Phil Mattingly reports the bill would be retroactive for two years, meaning it would affect Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
Trump has indicated he will continue to use national security grounds to pursue new tariffs. On May 23, Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross announced the department would open a Section 232 investigation into automobile imports. Republican lawmakers were infuriated with the decision, Corker foremost among them.
“It’s an abuse of that authority. It’s very blatant,” Corker said at the time.
The political calculus for the GOP is simple. What’s more likely to damage them by November, letting Trump play with matches on the economy by slapping tariffs on everyone or pissing off Trump by tying his hands on trade? Option A risks spooking swing voters, Option B risks infuriating Trump loyalists. “The bill would probably get the support of almost the entire conference, but the leadership doesn’t want to poke the bear,” said one Republican senator to the Hill of Corker’s effort. “For the policy, there’s overwhelming support. I think people are concerned about Trump’s response.” One theory of why Republicans have improved so much on the generic ballot over the last six months, in fact, is that there’s been peace between them and POTUS. Last year, when Trump was feuding with congressional Republicans over ObamaCare repeal and Russia sanctions, both he and they suffered. Now that Republican voters are more or less unified, who wants to risk another polling downturn five months before the midterms?
I think they’ll choke on Corker’s bill, if not in the Senate then in the House as Trump sycophants on the right and anti-trade Democrats on the left join hands to tank the bill. Which may not be the worst outcome for free-traders: As Tom Nichols notes, some lessons need to be re-learned the hard way, from terrible experience with the consequences. Corker says he and Trump had a long phone chat about the bill this morning, with POTUS urging him to pull it lest it reduce his power — a sign that the White House also thinks the bill stands a chance of passing. Corker described the tone of the call as, ahem, “heartfelt,” which I’m going to guess in this case is a synonym for “testy.” I wonder if Trump tried to zing him by reminding him that Tennessee was a slave state.
Exit question: Does Corker actually need veto-proof majorities if this ends up being attached to the defense bill? Is Trump going to veto military funding over his tariff policy?