Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the January 24, 2017 edition:
Trump Means Business
On his first full working day, the President met with major business leaders (including Baltimore’s own Kevin Plank—Underarmour CEO) and then proceeded, later in the day, to meet with leaders of major unions. Today, Mr. Trump will meet with automobile manufacturers.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave an interesting anecdote in the first, official, White House press briefing where he related that, in the large group of business leaders who met with Mr. Trump, when Mr. Trump asked who among them had ever been invited to the White House before, only three of them raised their hands. This was meant to underscore the point that the President sees it as part of his responsibility to help to grow the American economy. More than just meeting with “rich” business leaders, the President stepped out of the stereotypical Republican comfort zone and talked directly with leaders from America’s largest unions.
There was an interesting dynamic at work in Mr. Trump’s meeting with union leaders. Specifically, while union leadership had generally opposed Mr. Trump (they’ve been in the pockets of Democrats for decades), their members bucked the leaders and voted for Mr. Trump in droves. This was generally because of Mr. Trump’s strong rhetoric about growing jobs, bringing back opportunities, and improving conditions for the American worker. This blue collar populism was derided by the powerful coastal elites in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, but Mr. Trump, as Paul Ryan mentioned, was able to hear people that the establishment couldn’t.
Both of the President’s meetings yesterday, and today with automobile manufacturers, sets the theme that the President is looking to make good on his campaign promises. It should be noted, of course, that not everything in the discussions were “sunshine and rainbows.” Rather, Mr. Trump drew criticism from business leaders for his stance that American-led businesses who are trying to import products to compete with domestically produced products would be subject to an import tax. However, as Mr. Trump (as well as Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross) has noted, the import tax is not the preferred means of accomplishing the goal of increasing American production. Rather, it is meant to show companies that the Administration wants to make manufacturing elsewhere in the world more expensive than hiring and producing domestically. Certainly, there is quite a bit of pushback among Republicans against what’s being called “protectionism,” (as opposed to conservative orthodoxy of free trade), but Mr. Trump will likely find some allies among the Democrats in Washington (especially Democrats from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin) whose constituents have been very vocal about supporting Mr. Trump’s economic agenda.
The Brexit Must Go On
The UK’s Supreme Court issued an Opinion in the ongoing process of removing the United Kingdom from the European Union. Last year, voters across the country approved of a measure that would remove Britain from the EU. This vote was seen as a repudiation of the Eurocentric ideas of both the Conservative Government and also New Labour. It is also being viewed as a precursor to the election of Donald Trump (many of the themes of Brexit, including job loss, economic concerns, immigration, and national identity factored into the Brexit rhetoric and had similar echoes in the tone of the Trump campaign).
Prime Minister May, who will meet with Mr. Trump this Friday in Washington DC, has stressed that her government, which came to power following David Cameron’s resignation after the Brexit vote (while both are/were Conservative governments, Mr. Cameron had campaigned in favor of Remain and didn’t see a way forward for his government). May, certainly not a hardcore Eurosceptic, is nevertheless tasked with continuing the process the referendum started. The UK’s Supreme Court ruled that, despite the vote, there would still need to be an act of Parliament to make the effective trigger of the EU provisions to allow for the UK to leave. However, the Court also ruled that there was no need to seek the approval of the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
While this is a setback (the Courts have been tying the Government’s hands for months), the Prime Minister expressed confidence that Parliament would make the necessary approvals and Brexit would continue.
Yesterday was Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first, official, press conference. This had been preceded by Mr. Spicer reading a fiery statement on Saturday condemning fake reports by news outlets about a contention that the President had removed a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King and a report that Mr. Trump’s crowd size was smaller than the Inaugural crowd of President Obama. The statement was widely condemned by the press because Spicer called out the fake reporting and the deliberate attempts to be inflammatory.
Spicer’s tone was considerably different in his hour-and-fifteen minute press briefing Monday. Spicer attempted to explain the frustration the new Administration had with the false reporting and negative coverage when prompted by a reporter from CNN. It was interesting to see that the “major” outlets were focused on asking about crowd size and attempting to ask questions with a decidedly contrarian tone while reporters from other outlets were concerned about substantive policy. Notably, Mr. Spicer passed over the “major” outlets and took his first question from the New York Post followed by the Christian Broadcasting Network. Of course, Spicer did take questions from almost every outlet by the end of the presser.
It was abundantly clear that much of the press corps is now going to be openly hostile to the Administration. This isn’t terribly surprising, but, it is demoralizing given that they’ve spent the past eight years in fawning adulation of the outgoing Administration.
Important takeaways from this presser included the fact that Mr. Trump would be making his Supreme Court appointment within two weeks and that the President was open to the possibility of preventing China from expanding or building military bases in international waters in the South China Sea.
Day One Accomplishments
President Trump jumped right into the job of leading the nation yesterday. Along with the meetings with business and labor leaders, he met with Congressional leadership at the White House and signed three important Executive Orders (executive orders are used to tell members of the Executive Branch how to do their jobs. It’s not legislation, per se, though, in practice, it does look similar). The first was Mr. Trump’s making good on the promise he made during the campaign to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. As Mr. Trump noted, withdraw was a “win for the American worker.” As explained in more detail during a press conference later, Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, explained that multinational trade deals, like TPP, force the United States to negotiate at the lowest common denominator and are notoriously difficult to break out of in the event that they are not beneficial to the United States. Mr. Trump also signaled that he would be meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada to look towards renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Mr. Trump has said has cost thousands of Americans their jobs.
Mr. Trump also signed a federal worker hiring freeze. This is an important step to show that the President is concerned about the size and bloat of the federal bureaucracy.
Finally, Mr. Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, embraced by Republican Presidents since Reagan and discarded by Democrats. The Policy prohibits the award of federal money to NGOs that provide or encourage abortions. The rationale is simple: the United States taxpayer should not be paying to fund infanticide overseas.
In all, Mr. Trump’s first day was busy and kept promises he made to some of his core constituencies.
Obviously, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.