On the morning of 30 May, Mexican authorities awoke to a Trump tweet declaring he would impose a 5% tariff on Mexican exports to the United States and gradually increase those tariffs to 25% unless the Mexican government took steps to stop the flood of illegal immigrants passing through Mexico to the United States. By the end of the next week Mexico capitulated. President Manuel Obrador deployed thousands of troops to its southern border, agreed to hold migrants in Mexico while they sought asylum in the US and promised to breakup human trafficking networks.
Trump wielded the tariff weapon against China, waiting patiently as tariffs took their toll on the Chinese economy, walked away from the negotiating table, and hinted that he could wait till after the 2020 election to strike a deal. In this way Trump forced President Xi to renegotiate the trade relationship on terms favorable to the United States. In the first phase of negotiations, Beijing agreed to increase imports of US of agricultural goods, open up China to US financial services companies, and crack down on Chinese theft of American intellectual property. In exchange, Trump merely had to lift tariffs on some Chinese goods and agree not to levy new tariffs.
At last year’ NATO summit Trump slammed members for spending too little on defense. Just before this year’s summit, NATO announced that combined alliance members would spend $400 billion more on defense through 2024. Naturally Trump took credit for the increase and slammed NATO anyway. He attacked French President Emanuel Macron for his criticism of American leadership and told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his face that he was ‘slightly delinquent’. Here too, Trump suggested he could impose tariffs on nations he deemed to be spending too little on defense.
In January the Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Trump took the measure of the new congress, found it wanting, and mocked the Democrats relentlessly. The Democrats spent Trump’s State of the Union seated while he talked about the strong economy and called for end to human trafficking from Central America and Mexico. But Trump got them to stand and cheer – for themselves, when he pointed out more women were serving in congress than ever before. Later in the year Trump, with branding expertise acquired over decades in the New York City media market, labeled the three most radical house Freshman Dems (Ihan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Occasion Cortez) ‘The Squad’. Thanks to Trump, this collection of Islamic radicals, anti-Semites and socialist dingbats are the face of the young, democratic left.
House Democrats spent the year trying to build a case to impeach the president. In June, House Judiciary Chair Jerold Nadler (D-NY) held hearings on the Mueller Report on the 2016 election. When the report didn’t show collusion between Trump and Russia, in July Nadler called Robert Mueller himself to testify. During his testimony the former head of the FBI looked less like a tough prosecutor and more like a doddering old man. The House Dems moved on to other ideas. In August, coincidentally no doubt, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff cooked up a cockamamy scheme to impeach the president over a phone call to Ukraine. Secret intelligence committee meetings and ridiculous public hearings produced two flimsy articles of impeachment against the president, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then refused to send to the Senate.
The economy defied media hopes of a recession. Through the first three quarters of the year the economy grew at a decent 2.4 percent. Wage gains topped four and sometimes five percent throughout the year. And the economy produced an average of 180,000 jobs per month. At the end of November, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Both the NYSE and the NASDAQ hit all-time highs. This year America had its greatest Christmas retail sales ever. As is his wont, Trump claimed that his is the best economy ever. It is certainly the best economy in 50 years, leaving the Democrats to run against a president who has delivered on his economic promises.
The campaign to choose that nominee has produced no frontrunner. In November, Robert Francis O’Rourke, the unqualified, spindly armed and weird pretend-Hispanic, who last year spent $79 million on a losing senate campaign against the unpopular Ted Cruz (R-Texas), finally dropped out of the race. Seventy-seven-year-old Joe Biden remains in the lead, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) competing with one another for second place. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the only interesting candidate. An officer in the U.S. Army National Guard (she deployed this summer), practicing Hindu and surfer, Gabbard has roundly criticized the Democrat field for their obsession with Trump. Gabbard voted ‘present’ on the House articles of impeachment, incurring the wrath of the Democratic establishment and the left. In a July debate Gabbard singlehandedly wrecked Califronia Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign by pointing out that as state attorney general, she jailed citizens for marijuana while she herself joked about smoking the same.
Did Tulsi Gabbard learn the art of exploiting weakness from Trump?