See what happens when I take a vacation? I didn’t know Justin Trudeau had a reserved spot somewhere in Dante’s inferno until his reservation got canceled by the same Trump trade adviser who made it. Peter Navarro apologized for insulting the Canadian prime minister, saying that he’d overdone his attempt at a show of strength in a trade dispute:
Peter Navarro had said on Sunday there was a “special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy” with Mr. Trump “and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.” Mr. Navarro made it clear the comments referred to Mr. Trudeau.
On Tuesday, Mr. Navarro said he had been trying to use strong words to back Mr. Trump’s trade stance but went too far.
“In conveying that message I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” he said. “I own that, that was my mistake, those were my words.”
He made the comments Tuesday at an event of The Wall Street Journal CFO Network in Washington. When asked by the Journal interviewer if he was apologizing, Mr. Navarro said, “Yes, absolutely.”
Hmmm. Normally, the modus operandi for Trump administration officials precludes any recourse to apologies. The Boss himself dislikes admissions of fault, and reportedly dislikes it when his employees retreat in public. (Ask Kelly Sadler, who ended up out of a job anyway even without the public apology.) Either this one was egregious enough — and damaging enough to a key alliance — that Navarro got told to perform a public walkback, or Navarro might have put himself in another very difficult position.
What about Larry Kudlow? The president’s chief economic advisor told Jake Tapper on Sunday that Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” with his post-G7 remarks, calling it a “sophomoric play.” Kudlow told Tapper that Trudeau “did a great disservice” to the G7, and said that Trudeau had attacked Trump for “domestic consumption.” Tapper had a tough time buying that:
We won’t hear anything from Kudlow for a while, unfortunately, as he suffered a heart attack yesterday and is recovering at Walter Reed. (We certainly pray for a full and quick recovery.) Kudlow didn’t go quite as far as Navarro did in consigning Trudeau to the nether regions, but his remarks were sharply personal in attacking Trudeau, especially in describing his remarks as personal betrayals of Trump.
Now that the Singapore summit has concluded, perhaps the White House will walk back most of the venom aimed at Trudeau. After all, he’s not the world leader running slave-labor concentration camps and aiming nuclear weapons at the US and its allies. People speculated that the Trump administration wanted to make an example of Trudeau as a warning to Kim Jong-un about post-summit reversals, which is a strange way to treat an ally and key trading partner if true. If so, though, the point has been made and perhaps the time has come to repair some of the damage done last week.
One sure way to tell if this is White House strategy: wait to see if Navarro keeps his job after the apology, or if he comes under fire from Trump for showing weakness.