The President-elect's attack on one of America's most important companies wasn't simply driven by ignorance.
Late in American involvement in the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon put forth the “madman theory.” He wanted Henry Kissinger to intimate to Hanoi and Moscow that Nixon was so frustrated that he had gone off the rails and was capable of anything, even nuclear war.
Although a drunk and casual about the Constitution, Nixon was no madman, but a shrewd and experienced foreign-policy hand. The “madman theory” probably did little to bring a face-saving American exit from Vietnam, but it might have prevented unilateral Soviet intervention in the Yom Kippur War. It was bad, dangerous policy, nonetheless.
Now comes President-elect Trump with his tweets, many of which appear crazy. Crazy like a fox? He’s a proved con man, narcissist, liar and proudly ill-informed. As someone tweeted, riffing off the famous Obama-chess analogy, “While everyone else is playing checkers, Donald Trump is playing Russian Roulette.” This was stunningly on display Tuesday when Trump went after Boeing, threatening to cancel new Air Force One 747s.
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But the damage was done to Boeing shares, not merely a warning not to defy the autocrat-elect but as payback for the warnings of Boeing executives during the campaign of how damaging Trump’s trade policies would be. Also, a shot across the bow of the blue Puget Sound region. Former Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, in Trump’s kitchen cabinet, obviously had his former employer’s back. Are they cowering in Chicago now?
As for the Boeing machinists who supposedly voted in large numbers for Trump hoping he would bring jobs back to America, you’ve been duped. This self-professed billionaire (we don’t really know because he took the unprecedented modern step of refusing to release his taxes) has surrounded himself with real billionaires. You know, the toffs who pushed and profited from offshoring jobs. And the ones who will get the message: Defy the new regime at your peril (no wonder Trump admires Vladimir Putin).
But this isn’t some Atlantic City casino hustle. The man will be leader of the Free World and capable of incalculable damage, not least to the white working class. (Suckers). He is backed by a party of extremists. And, by the way, where was the “serious, reasonable” Speaker Paul Ryan as Trump was doing a beatdown on one of America’s most important companies?
One last thing to bear in mind about Trump’s behavior: When he does something outrageous in public, it is often calculated to distract. So what was the other, potentially more serious, outrage being concealed Tuesday while all the attention was on Boeing?
Today’s Econ Haiku:
On Pearl Harbor day
Remember valor endures
And bolts from the blue