Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio closed out the week by crowding into South Carolina to speechify on the Chinese threat. That felt appropriate, considering China itself launched the week by turning global markets upside down. Watch the remarks in reverse order — try Rubio, then Trump — and it’s a bit like witnessing the Republican version of President Obama and his anger translator: A measured take on a pressing international challenge unravels into a manic yawp. Only in the joke, the President brings out his translator to speak rough truths because his office demands niceties that mask his real meaning. In reality, for better or worse, it’s the other way around — complex problems require nuance.
Trump’s views on China (and he’s offered them up plenty, as the topic’s become a hobbyhorse for the GOP frontrunner) can be deceiving. He flogs the historically huge — read “yuge” — trade imbalance between the U.S. and the Asian superpower. And he calls out China for perpetrating “the greatest theft in the history of the United States and perhaps the world.”
Neither claim is baseless. Our bilateral trade deficit is breaking records. And while Trump passes off the “theft” insight as his own — “I said it the other day, and I thought it was very good,” he told his Thursday audience in Greenville, S.C. — original credit for it owes to Keith Alexander, who as the National Security Agency director in 2012 referred to the Chinese lifting of American intellectual property as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” That judgment was affirmed a year later by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property — co-chaired by Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence, and Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China.
But the veneer of truthiness on Trump’s takes obscures a muddle. To address our trade deficit, Trump prescribes imposing Smoot-Hawley-style tariffs that would precipitate a trade war and devastate exports. And when Trump speaks about Chinese theft, it appears he’s talking not just about intellectual property but also their buying of American debt. In fact, China’s purchase of U.S. Treasuries affirms their dependency on the dollar.
Obviously, this stuff is complicated. Trump isn’t likely losing sleep over it. Demagoguery is easy — and, as we’ve seen, effective.
• DNC meeting shows intra-party tensions
An ordinarily uneventful summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee turned turbulent on Friday when Hillary Clinton’s two most prominent declared rivals for the party’s presidential nomination launched attacks on her candidacy and party leadership for supporting it. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders used the event to criticize what they framed as the party’s anointing of Clinton as the Democratic standard-bearer. Clinton allies pushed back, in a display of muscle clearly meant to signal to Vice President Joe Biden, who’s still mulling a bid, that the party apparatus is unifying around her candidacy.
• Party regulars frustrated with Clinton’s handling of email flap
Interviews with more than 75 Democratic party leaders reveal a growing frustration with Hillary Clinton’s inability to move past the controversy over her use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. The official and media scrutiny of the issue has dented the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s standing in the polls — and, more ominously, public views of her trustworthiness as a leader. For Clinton supporters, the gravest concern remains whether doubts the issue has raised will create an opening for Joe Biden to enter the race and present a stiff challenge to her once-seemingly assured nomination.
New York Times
• Kasich is quietly making moves in New Hampshire
Keep an eye on the Ohio Governor. While the national media fixate on the Trump Show, the two-term Republican governor of swing-state Ohio is building a durable network with a stronghold in early-voting New Hampshire. The latest: a super PAC supporting his run is spending $5 million in the Granite State to highlight his green eyeshade bona fides as the onetime House Budget chairman. Kasich is polling in the third place in the state, staking his candidacy on an impressive showing there.
• GE shuns Dallas over local lawmaker’s Ex-Im opposition
General Electric is reportedly scratching Dallas off the list of potential new homes for its headquarters in retaliation for the opposition of area Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) to renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank. The multinational leans on the agency to finance its international sales, but Tea Party types in Congress, led by Hensarling — a powerhouse as the House Financial Services chairman — forced the expiration of its charter at the end of June. Free-market conservatives have seized on the bank as a bastion of “crony capitalism” despite its long history of bipartisan support. The White House and allies on Capitol Hill are nevertheless hoping to find a way to revive it in the fall.
Around the Water Cooler
• Biden could premise a White House bid on championing the middle class
As the vice president mulls whether to jump into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination — a contest that some observers believe Hillary Clinton has already locked down — one policy pitch could help provide a rationale for his candidacy. In the Senate and especially in the administration, Biden has carved a profile as a middle-class champion, and he could argue that following through on that work demands his entrance into the race. In particular, that would mean a focus on restoring manufacturing through investments in infrastructure, job training and research and development — though Clinton herself has already made a robust program of reforms aimed at narrowing the wage gap a cornerstone of her bid.
• Here’s a proposal for an enduring Trump movement
Speaking of platforms, Trump could defy whatever remains of the flash-in-the-pan expectations for his candidacy and build an enduring political movement by embracing a provocative, populist program, Reihan Salam argues. Without endorsing the prescription itself, the National Review editor argues the current Republican frontrunner could forge a third-party lane by embracing an admittedly nonsensical smashup of campaign finance reform, a minimum wage hike, higher taxes on the rich, an expansion of Social Security benefits, and opt-in Medicare. Will Trump embrace it? Almost assuredly he won’t. But it’s fun to think about.
• Solyndra officials misrepresented financials to the feds
In case it wasn’t already clear from the glut of coverage — and Republican grandstanding — that followed the 2011 collapse of Solyndra, the government-backed solar panel maker, a new report from the Department of Energy’s inspector general finds that company officials misled the feds into handing over a $535 million loan guarantee. In applying for the loan guarantee, the report found, Solyndra officials inflated the value of its contracts with customers. Whether by wishful thinking or willful exaggeration, Solyndra’s misrepresentations aren’t out of the ordinary for such startups and offer a cautionary tale for such big government bets on emerging technologies.