Is Donald Trump bonkers? In the past few days, the notion that Trump is not all there has been picking up steam. His references to what would amount to a divine mandate — ‘I am the chosen one’ — or eager embrace of his putative status as King of the Jews have prompted more than a little head shaking in the media. Perhaps the most vociferous member of the Trump-as-nutcase brigade is his aggrieved former aide Anthony Scaramucci who most recently likened the president to Rev. Jim Jones. Trump has reciprocated Scaramucci’s concern about his mental health by deeming him, in turn, a ‘nut job.’
But it is Trump’s actions today that have his detractors sounding fresh alarms. After Federal Reserve chairman Jerome H. Powell delivered a mild rebuke of his trade policies in the form of noting that they are creating economic uncertainty and that monetary policy cannot provide ‘a settled rule book for international trade,’ Trump inquired whether ‘Jay,’ as he called Powell, was a greater enemy than Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping. Then, in response to China slapping tariffs on $75 billion on American goods, Trump announced, or, to put it more precisely, tweeted, that he was ordering American companies to decamp from China (so that Europe can steal the business?) and was upping the rates on current and forthcoming tariffs on China. So much for the Christmas exemption he had promised from what are in reality Trump tax hikes. The covetous Grinch only stole Christmas presents; he didn’t stop parents from trying to buy them in the first place. All of this before he heads this weekend to Biarritz, where he wants to boast to his fellow G-7 members about the prowess of the American economy and taunt them about the flaccidity of theirs. Poor Boris Johnson must wonder what he’s gotten himself into, though he’ll doubtless try to play the role of faithful manservant to Trump.
But I digress. For all the hugger-mugger about Trump’s sanity, does any of this political wackiness mean that Trump himself is losing it? Not a chance. Trump is no more or less unstable than he’s ever been over the years. You can argue that the ideas or even the man are kooky but it’s not like there has been some dramatic deterioration in the man himself. Quite the contrary.
What we are witnessing isn’t some sudden development but the logical culmination of decades of steadfast views on trade and international relations. Trump is doing what he said he would do in 2016. It would be pushing matters to argue that Trump’s stances are the product of deep cerebration. But he is most comfortable in the role of fighter and he has only begun to fight. American companies may not return HOME from China, as Trump demanded today, but he is coming back to home base.
How sweet it is for him! The ur-Trump, the nationalist who said all along that he would destroy globalist elites has re-emerged. The pity of it is that as the American and global economy swoons, he may hereby take the rest of us down with him.