Trumpster Diving

* There are a lot of legitimate reasons why the U.S. should not be satisfied with the status quo trade relationship with China. Not with a country that engages in cyber espionage, insists on one-sided joint venture requirements and routinely traffics in stolen technology and intellectual property. President Trump is right to want a reset. But he’s wrong to go about it by unilaterally playing the blunt-instrument tariff card. By ignoring or alienating allies, he has lost leverage with other players in China’s mercantile orbit. “Nationalism” shouldn’t preclude the savvy self interest of globalism. We need our allies, our free-trade partners. Now more than ever.

* It’s still beyond ironic that this president’s fawning base likes, among other Trumpian traits, his “tough-guy,” tell-it-like-it-is, politically incorrect manner. He doesn’t sound like some politically elite, establishment careerist. More like the loudest drunk at last call who’s buying the house a round.

He has no compunction about callously calling out a judge, a Supreme Court Justice, a former CIA chief or his own attorney general. He is the “Lock her up,” “Enemy of the people,” cult-figure populist who insults allies and demonizes the media and immigrants. And yet, he has no guts when it comes to firing people in person (Rex Tillerson, most notably), speaking directly to Robert Mueller, talking candidly to Vladimir Putin, getting North Korea to agree on a working definition of “denuclearization” or even showing up at the annual Correspondents Dinner to give as good as he gets.

* The rationale for Trump choosing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general seems obvious. He’s a known Robert Mueller antagonist. He was a loyalist Trump mole inside the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. He’s no fan of Marbury v. Madison that established the precedent of judicial review. And, oh yeah, he looks like he’s prepping for a Benito Mussolini casting call. Trump loves optics.

* The relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is becoming a rather fraught one. From NAFTA differences to “the wall” that Mexico will never underwrite to the “caravan” amassing in Tijuana in hopes of U.S. asylum in San Diego. Now add this: On Saturday (Dec. 1), Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, will be inaugurated. He’ll be Mexico’s first leftist president in decades, hardly what an authoritarian American president would prefer. And among those invited to Obrador’s inaugural: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro.

* “He is a clown, a dangerous clown.”–That sobering Trump assessment didn’t come from Michael Moore or Rosie O’Donnell or the 2016 versions of Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. It came from Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. I wish I disagreed.

* “It’s going to be devastating.” That was Alan Dershowitz, the high-profile Harvard law professor emeritus, assessing the likely impact on Trump of the Mueller investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. It’s especially notable since Dershowitz has been a frequent defender of Trump.

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