Donald Trump is unfair to his critics. They can’t keep a negative narrative going no matter how hard they try because he keeps interrupting with unexpected good news. What’s a respectable body to do?
The president has had a terrible, horrible, awful and not very good fortnight, with Robert Mueller snapping at his heels like a Jack Russell terrier on steroids. Maxine Waters keeps talking about impeachment and there are rumors that Mr. Mueller is even going after the next Trump generation (this generation will be dead of old age, gone and forgotten before Mr. Mueller can get his ducks in a row. The hog farmers of Iowa can’t keep up with the demand for ham to make the sandwiches for Mr. Mueller to indict (and occasionally convict).
The media is finally catching on. Mr. Mueller, to mix the meaty metaphors, is exposed as all hat and no cattle. “Let him keep indicting and convicting ham sandwiches,” observes George Neumahr in the American Spectator. “Most Americans won’t care. It just underscores the superfluous and abusive character of his probe. He is not compiling an air-tight legal case for impeachment; he is simply using abusive prosecutorial tactics to foment an anti-Trump political firestorm.”
You might call it Mr. Mueller’s mob in search of a suitable length of seagrass rope, seagrass being tightly woven and of such tensile strength that a heavy candidate for the gallows dropped from high enough might be decapitated. Anything to satisfy Maxine.
But just when the blood lust seems about sated, along comes news like Monday’s bombshell that the United States and Mexico are about to kiss and make up with a trade deal to replace NAFTA. The president teased out Twitter hints from before breakfast that something good was about to happen — good, that is, for the country. (For the Democrats and other confirmed naysayers, not so much.)
Then, from the Oval Office, where the president was seated ready to take a telephone call from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, came the news that the two countries had reached an “incredible deal for both parties.” The president wants to wash away all traces of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement hated for its treating American interests with such cavalier indifference. He wants to call it something else, like the “United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.” (Presumably it would be pronounced as if it were “ussum-ta,” which someone familiar with the poetry of words could improve.) Mr. Trump said Canada, which has been a bit prissy about the negotiations in which they by their choice were not involved, must be included in the agreement, which would then be pronounced “ussumcanta.” More melodic, for sure.
Under the new agreement, automobile companies would be required to manufacture at least three-fourths of a car’s value in North America to qualify for zero tariffs. This is a 12.5 percent increase from prevailing NAFTA rules, and renegotiated rules would require that a portion of the car must be assembled by workers earning at least $16 an hour. This is described as a concession by Mexico to avoid getting an advantage with its more frugal pay for workers.
President Trump was predictably, and typically, ecstatic. “Our relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour,” he said, growing more ecstatic as the day wore on. “Some really good people within both the old and new governments all worked closely [on the new deal].”
If all this was unsettling to Democrats, who must have only bad news to make their midterm narrative work, it was very good news for Wall Street. The market exploded, and in a good way, on the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 259 points, closing above 26,000 for the first time since February; the S&P 500 closed at 2896.74, a record, and the NASDAQ climbed to a record, breaking above 8,000 for the first time.
The new deal must be approved by Congress, but the reaction of the markets suggests that only churls, of whom there is no shortage in Washington, would complain. But reality can be interpreted in curious ways on the eve of 435 House and 33 Senate elections.
If ol’ Stupid, the great campaign consultant, has learned anything since Bubba taught him the expensive lesson that elections are always about the economy, he is telling his clients now that renegotiated trade agreements and an economy running at a blistering speed will satisfy everyone beyond the newsrooms at The Washington Post and The New York Times (and the television networks that chase the chum in the wake of the newspapers). So Democrats, who thought they would be surfing the blue wave by now, must be careful. Surfing can be fun, but you can get wet.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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