Terry H. Schwadron
July 28, 2018
For the President, anything that looks shiny gets a spotlight, anything that doesn’t Is dismissed as fake.
The quarterly GDP (Gross Domestic Product) numbers reflect a 4.1% growth rate — a number that economists say is a temporary reflection of a variety of conditions, including some credit to President Trump’s boosterism. So, naturally, despite the variability of the number, Trump is trumpeting the achievement as a lasting matter.
At the same time, Trump’s longtime lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen is starting to rat him out. Besides his tape of Trump arranging for a payment to a former Playboy model as hush money to keep hidden a sexual relationship, Cohen reportedly has told reporters he was present when Trump heard about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians — before it happened. That report was tweet-worthy for the president to accuse his own friend and lawyer of making things up.
In Trumpland, the actual truth of any of these items involving the news is secondary to whether it shows the president in a good light.
On the economy,Trump said the country is growing “at the amazing rate” and that “we’re on track to hit the highest annual average growth rate in over 13 years.” Trade deals will further help the economy and “we’re going to go a lot higher than these numbers and these are great numbers,” said Trump .
Actually,the figure was pumped up by a surge in exports, which accounted for a quarter of the total growth for the quarter — an ironic development since the the export boom was driven in part by mounting trade tensions, which led foreign buyers to stock up on American products before their governments imposed tariffs. One example was soybeans, which now are targeted by Chinese tariffs.
Los Angeles Times business columinist Michael Hiltzik argued that Trump needs to check his math.Hitting 4.1% for one quarter is no guarantee of continued success; the overall yearly GDP hovers closer to 2.6%, and during the Obama years, there were multiple single quarters hitting 4%.
Indeed, having gotten Europe into a fevered pitch over tariffs, Trump sounded this week as if it was all a bad dream, that a deal to make a zero-tariff deal spells a wonderful future for growth and for positive American trade balances with the EEC.
Quarterly GDP also reflected a rise in government spending, as a result of the federal budget finally adopted along with corporate tax cuts. That too is ironic, since Trump and congressional Republicans insist they want to reduce government spending.
Nevertheless, good economic news is something we expect our politicians to carry high as banners into election season.
By now it feels habitual to have to check twice upon hearing that the Trump administration has broken through with a new achievement. If it sounds too good to believe, it turns out that it may be.
On the other hand, if the news is relatively critical for Trump, he and his posse will be very active in denials in tweets, television appearances and statements, most of which will attack the main character in the drama. So, it was no surprise to hear Trump, Rudy Giuliani and others suddenly jump all over Michael Cohen as reports grew that Cohen was putting Trump on the hot seat over knowledge of that Trump Tower meeting.
As Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for The Washington Post,said, “If true, Cohen’s account would put Trump front and center in a plan to conspire with — collude, if you will — with Russians to help him win the presidency. This almost certainly would make Trump’s mantra of “no collusion” a bald-faced lie and his conduct over the past 18 months (e.g. denying knowledge of the meeting, writing a phony account of the meeting, badgering Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself, threatening the special prosecutor, firing former FBI director James B. Comey Jr., concocting bizarre and false conspiracy theories to distract investigators) nothing short of obstruction of justice. But that is a really big if.”
“But then again, the president has denied many things that turned out to be true. Interestingly, Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani didn’t deny the allegations Thursday night; he simply attacked Cohen’s credibility. Giuliani’s defense that Cohen is a “pathological liar” begs the question as to why the president would employ such a scoundrel for years,” she said.
Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe tweeted, “If Cohen credibly testifies Trump knew in advance of the 6/9/16 meeting that Donald Jr, Jared, etc, had with Viselnitskaya & other Russians in Trump Tower to get dirt against Clinton in June 2016, that’s direct evidence of Trump/Putin collusion. Huge.”
Of course, Cohen is anything but a great character witness.
It all adds up to a need to check twice on Trump judgments.