A 3-M Week

Alan Zendell, June 11, 2019

This is not an attempt to convince anyone to buy or sell 3M stock. Rather, it’s a mildly depressing look at the way Donald Trump massacred the thirteenth letter of our alphabet this week.

The first M is for Mexico, which is also the M in the agreed to but as yet unratified USMCA, the trade agreement that is supposed to replace NAFTA. According to the president, USMCA was needed because NAFTA was the worst deal ever negotiated in the history of the United States. Of course, Trump has also described the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Paris Accords on Climate Change as the worse deals his predecessors ever made, though he has offered nothing to replace them.

A quick read of the US Trade Representative’s summary of the USMCA offers no specifics to prove that it actual improves the US position in trade with Mexico and Canada, and most observers describe USMCA as NAFTA on an allegedly more level playing field (though the USTR summary offers no specific evidence of that) with a couple of “new chapters covering Digital Trade, Anticorruption, Good Regulatory Practices, [and how] Small and Medium Sized Enterprises benefit from the Agreement.

Since the Office of the Trade Representative is essentially a shill for the White House, this description is about the rosiest spin anyone could put on USMCA, which using Trump’s own words would make it only a marginal improvement over an agreement that is in a four-way tie as the worst in our history. The whole USMCA thing was quintessential Trump: lies, exaggerations, bullying threats, and a thinly veiled cloak of xenophobia and racism. In May, his administration came full circle by lifting the tariffs on steel and aluminum with which he started his little heroic operetta of phony crisis followed by fearless leader rushing in to save the day.

That’s the kind of alternate reality Trump lives in, and this week he added a layer of absurdity worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan as he announced he’d “reached a deal” with Mexico that averted his latest round of bullying tariff threats. Trump proudly proclaimed that he had brought Mexico to its knees, forcing them to control the flow of migrants through their country to our southern border. The centerpiece of the intimidation/extortion deal was Mexico’s agreement to send thousands of its national guard troops to police its own southern border with Guatemala…but wait, wasn’t that the same agreement that had been made months earlier before Trump announced new tariffs?

By now we’re all familiar with the Trump playbook. It’s pretty short since he only knows one play. Trump up (the phrase may have been coined for him) a fake crisis, create chaos among his own Congress and business communities, revel in how his actions make the stock market dance, and then pull out a meaningless victory that accomplishes nothing that didn’t already exist. Are you as tired of all this as I am?

This brings us to M number 2 – the Moon. Trump had bragged for months that he was revitalizing NASA and increasing its budget to restore its former greatness. We were going back to the Moon, and would land astronauts there, including the first Selenian woman, by 2024. He touted the Moon effort loudly for weeks until it suddenly occurred to him that the Moon was fifty-year old news.

So he changed his tune. Why spend all that money doing something we’ve already done, which gets us to M number 3 – Mars. Apparently, we’re finally going to Mars because Trump said so, though there was none of the inspiration in the announcement that we felt when John Kennedy told us about Project Apollo. Just more of Trump’s brash, uninformed brags. You see, Trump forgot that the plan all along had been to establish a base on the Moon first and then use it as a jumping off point to Mars.

In his uniquely inarticulate way, he managed to conflate the two efforts in one huge gaffe when he tweeted that “the Moon is part of Mars” over the weekend. As much as I consider Trump a dangerous embarrassment and a horrible excuse for a leader, I don’t believe he actually thinks the Moon is part of Mars. But that doesn’t excuse making all of us cringe at his ludicrous tweet. I don’t know whether it would be worse if our president was dumb enough to believe the Moon was part of Mars, or that he’s simply content to sound like a moron whenever he sees television lights or a computer keyboard.

I said at the outset that this would be only mildly depressing. That’s because we’ve heard this stuff so much we’re becoming dulled to it.

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