After a short truce declared at the end of June, Trump decided to further raise tariffs in his ill-conceived plan to beat China regardless of the softening of the world economy. Last week the Federal Reserve Bank cut the interest rate in an effort to limit the damage the tariffs have been inflicting on our own economy. Then this last weekend we were struck by two back to back mass shootings, first in El Paso, Texas and then in Dayton, Ohio.
A deep malaise has seized the nation and yet, at this critical moment, we are, in effect, leaderless. There is no one in charge at the White House, no one with vision or moral courage.
The trade war with China was a bad idea from the start. There are plenty of other ways to address our differences but not at the expense of imperiling our economies. Furthermore, we will not beat China in a trade war, and we will not because they will endure more suffering than us.
But listen to one of the president’s advisers talk on the radio and one sees a common denominator: the effort to demonize. The adviser, Peter Navarro, spoke the other day as if the one objective driving China’s existence was to subjugate Americans, to get us down on our knees and beg for mercy. There was rage in the man’s voice as he spoke of Chinese soldiers devoted to hacking our systems, and of China’s massive shipments of the drug fentanyl to poison our hearts and minds. China, the devil incarnate. As if we were known for being helpless.
Not willing to back off, over the weekend China fought back against Trump’s raise in tariffs by devaluing their currency which will make their exports cheaper.
The financial markets, in turn, sensing the deep malaise, the uncertainty, the lack of perspective in the White House, the void of leadership, have responded with a sharp drop in the Dow.
We will not win a trade war with China but a short sighted president with profound personal flaws keeps beating that drum in a vain attempt to deflect personal scrutiny. And as he does so he continues to undermine what had been an economy with steady growth.
This is the same man who rose to his position by way of inciting hate, demonizing immigrants and Muslims, and who has thus empowered those blinded by their hate.
Our president, himself filled with hate and unable or unwilling to defuse it, has by his example, given license to others who have weaker defenses against their unexamined impulses.
And so, no matter how many proclamations and tweets and executive orders come from the White House, if one takes a moment to sift through it all, it is clear that the Oval Office has been empty. There is no one there. Sure, someone goes in and out, sits at the desk and walks around, meets with foreign leaders and makes lots of noises, but there’s no one there with the brain needed to lead us. And because of it we are drifting dangerously, without a moral and intellectual compass to lead us into the future.