Thursday :: May 24, 2018

Surprise - No Summit

by Deacon Blues

As might have been expected, the anticipated summit between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un scheduled for next month in Singapore is now off, after Trump sent a letter to North Korea earlier today canceling it.

Ostensibly, Trump cancelled the meeting because of recent North Korean hostility, but the summit was doomed for numerous reasons, including a lack of engagement from the North on summit preparations, and a confused and sophomoric message from Trump’s team, with Vice President Mike Pence repeating the Libya example after Trump already dealt with John Bolton’s ham-handed reference to Libya last week.

Successful summitry is largely done behind the scenes in the preparation stage by seasoned people at the State and Defense departments, not by a whim but over months of work, which is why this effort collapsed. By his own making, Trump has none of those people, and none of that patience. He prefers to handle things himself while leaving key positions unfilled throughout his administration. Add to that his lack of preparation, his intentional ignorance of how to get these things done, and his fundamental unsuitability for the presidency, and what you get is a situation where things may be worse off now than before he impulsively lunged for a summit.

And yet, you can be sure that Pyongyang will circle back and attempt to draw out Trump to continue hopes for a summit to make him look too eager.

This may be bad not just for national security reasons but also for economic reasons. Trump has recently been unhappy with China over their perceived inability to keep pressure on Pyongyang to get serious about the summit and an agreement to denuclearize, even though it was never in the cards for Kim to give up his nukes especially after Bolton and Pence’s childlike comments. Now Trump is making noises about ratcheting up tariffs and other trade pressure on China, at a time when the NAFTA negotiations are about to fall apart and we are threatening sanctions on our EU allies over their unwillingness to endorse Trump’s mistake with Iran.

There are several reasons why Trump has been politically successful so far. The first is the lack of a coherent, consistent, and pressuring Democratic counter-narrative message against him. Rather than hammer Trump repeatedly for rising gas prices, a lack of wage growth after the tax cuts, the lack of any infrastructure program, and rising health care costs at a time when Trump and the GOP control all parts of government, Democrats at the national level flounder around either in silence or too much in the MSNBC echo chamber about Russia and impeachment. And Main Street doesn’t yet care about impeachment or Russia too much; they care about kitchen table issues while Trump suckers his sheeple that he is sticking to his campaign promises.

Second, and perhaps just as important, for all his terrible conduct of the presidency, Trump hasn’t suffered any consequences yet from that behavior. The tax cut passed and job growth continues, but it hasn’t yet dawned on the working class that their wage increases haven’t come, nor have they fully felt the increase in gas and health care costs that will manifest themselves during the summer and fall. Plus, any eventual slowdown in the economy will not come until after the midterms when rising bond prices and Fed interest rates start taking their effect. And despite the rhetoric and bluster on trade and tariffs, the blowback from a collapsed NAFTA or bilateral trade relations with key partners like China or the EU won’t happen until later this year as well. As for foreign relations, the results from the Iran deal withdrawal and the collapsed Singapore summit have yet to be felt, but are likely to manifest themselves well before the end of the year.

In short, Democrats should not get discouraged by the latest Trump approval or generic ballot numbers. Instead, they should focus on a consistent economic message about rising prices and broken promises, and let Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York handle the Russia and corruption narratives on a parallel track. They should also realize that Trump has already sown the seeds of his demise.

Update, Friday: Sure enough, the North put out a statement still wanting the summit, and sure enough, Trump is still working to rescue it, because he realizes that 1) politically he desperately needs this win for November; and 2) he's lost any support for pressuring North Korea from this point on, having tossed Kim a huge victory.

Deacon Blues :: 1:48 PM :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!