Trump’s Tariff Cave: Thanks For Nothing, Cory Gardner

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

While President Donald Trump and the conservative mediasphere celebrate their “big win” in high-stakes negotiations with Mexico under the threat of punitive sanctions to reduce undocumented immigration into the United States via that country, the New York Times was obliged to pop the bubble:

The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, [Pols emphasis] according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

It’s become a distinct patten in the Trump administration: when facing defeat on a high-stakes policy gambit, Trump simply moves the goalposts to a location from which he can claim victory. Can’t replace Obamacare? At least we messed it up good! North Korea still firing off missiles? Hey, at least they’re not testing nukes! So it makes perfect sense that with the deadline to make good on his threats or fold rapidly approaching, Trump decided the concessions he already had won from Mexico were enough to stand down his threat of tariffs starting Monday.

Obviously, the revelation that Trump didn’t actually win new concessions in this latest round of drama undercuts the sense of triumph this was all supposed to build up to. We’re not completely sure how this was going to play out in the long term–would it have meant Trump was done demonizing immigrants, having solved the issue once and for all? That seems hard to imagine. In this respect, the news that Friday’s “last-minute deal” was a sham could actually help Republicans stay on their anti-immigrant message.

As for Sen. Cory Gardner? Once again Gardner has exhibited precisely zero leadership on the issue dominating the past week of nationwide news headlines. Gardner was one of the last Republicans who claimed to oppose the tariffs to dissent publicly before Trump announced that the tariffs would not be imposed. Gardner hasn’t commented publicly since the announcement that we’ve seen, but we’re not sure what he should say. If Gardner acknowledges reality and thanks the President for caving, the GOP base will be outraged. But if Gardner tries to validate Trump’s fictional pretense of a deal, everybody who knows the facts will laugh at him.

The sole piece of good news here that everybody can agree on is that there will be no sudden tariffs on billions of dollars of goods starting Monday. That’s a relief for everyone, though it comes no thanks to Trump, Gardner, or anyone with an (R) after their name. A relatively painless end to another self-inflicted crisis does not leave voters with anything to celebrate.

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  1. Mr. L. Prosser says:

    Charles Pierce had this pegged way back on May 31st. "… the way this all will play out is that, now that the president* has done his Master of the Universe thing in public, there will be a spate of stories about what a bad idea it is, and about how it will affect the world economy and the lives of average Americans, and then, sometime reasonably soon, the president* will declare victory based on some calculation known only to him and the tariffs actually never will take place." Ol' Cory can't figure this out and waits to see what he thinks the best direction is; mostly the Kochs direction.

  2. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    Now that people are pointing out the "previous agreement" element of the resolution, Trump has to do something, so he's threatening that tariffs are still an option if Mexico doesn't do "enough."

    President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that his “very profitable” proposed tariffs on Mexican imports are still on the table if there isn’t “great cooperation” between Mexico and the U.S.

  3. DavieDavie says:

    Of course, Paul Krugman says it best:

    Now, the business world is extremely pleased that the trade war appears to have been called off. But it does look as if a Trump threat is worth about as much as a Trump promise: There’s no particular reason to believe that he’ll actually go through with it.

    The only thing we can be sure of is that whatever happens, Trump will claim to have achieved a great victory.

    In the case of the Mexican standoff, this may not seem too bad. But think about what it means when foreign leaders know that the president of the United States is: 
    (a) gullible 
    (b) easily susceptible to flattery and 
    (c) eager to proclaim victory, and unwilling to admit that he didn’t actually get anything significant.

    Basically, this turns America into a systematic chump. Hold a summit, flatter Trump’s vanity, let him issue a communiqué claiming vast achievement, then go on doing whatever you wanted to do. Just ask North Korea’s Kim, who snookered Trump into thinking he’d made major concessions, went right back to building up his nuclear attack capacity, and still gets praised by Trump as our allies watch in horror.

    • DavieDavie says:

      And this from Politico:

      The brouhaha also exposed the diminishing effectiveness of the president’s negotiating style, if only because of its growing predictability, which is signaling to those across the table that neither he — nor his threats — can be taken seriously.

      But you do have to give Con Man Cory a little credit — 3 years ago he called it correctly — *rump is proving again and again to be the buffoon Gardner saw at the time.

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