The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. So confirmed both Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Mitch McConnell—a bipartisan mortician team—to the New York Times this morning. Those of us who questioned whether Trump would back off his opposition to TPP as president now have our answer, and with the ink drying on the death warrant, I can’t say I’m particularly upset about it.
Occasional Rare contributor and China expert Harry Kazianis emails this about TPP: “Many studies have proven that it did very little to create jobs or economic prosperity for the average American – its goal was to ensure Washington was the dominant power in the region, and restrain the rise of Beijing.” Even if you generally oppose protectionism, as I do, it’s difficult to shed tears over what was essentially a global schematic cooked up in a foreign policy lab that little took into account its impact on the working class. Trump’s nationalism might be hazardous, but it’s not without its merits.
Yet the death of TPP doesn’t have to mean squelching free trade: Harry writes, “President Trump can work towards bilateral trade agreements with nations like Vietnam and Taiwan who are eager to diversify their trade and investment away from Beijing.” If he does that, both in Asia and with newly liberated Britain, and refrains from doing something stupid like starting a trade war with China, this could turn out okay.
Either way, Washington has already been imprinted with the treads of Trumpism. You can see it, too, in his impending hires.
The next head of the EPA is rumored to Myron Ebell, who Trump named to his transition team a couple months ago. Ebell works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute and is one of the most knowledgeable climate change skeptics in all of Washington—he was even featured in Greenpeace’s sinister “Field Guide to Climate Criminals.” His appointment is a blinding signal that Trump will follow through on his promises to expand American energy creation and try to rescue the coal industry.
Other signs are less positive. One of the few upsides of the Trump campaign was its determination to amend our antediluvian foreign policy, a fantasy, many of us argued at the time, given how conventionally hawkish his security advisors were. And now, sure enough, former congressman Mike Rogers, one of the most tenacious defenders of the intelligence agencies on Capitol Hill, has been appointed to the transition team. Other names on the Trump shortlist include mustachioed warmonger John Bolton—rumored to be under consideration for secretary of state, a dark sign for the Iran deal if ever there was one—along with Senator Bob Corker and conspiracy peddler Walid Phares. Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, hawks both, are likely to be in the cabinet.
Perhaps the main feature of Trumpism, certainly more characteristic than any policy position, is vindictiveness against those who oppose its champion. Imported into the federal government, this could cut both ways.
On one hand, it’s likely to keep out of power a number of repulsively cynical Republican K Streeters and political operatives, who were spotted in recent days pathetically dragging their reptilian carcasses towards the White House. Most of these guys opposed Trump and then after his election came down with a convenient case of MAGA. “My phone is ringing off the hook with people who were on the outs asking how they can get into Trump world,” one Trump loyalist told Politico. “I’m telling them there is no f—ing way they’re getting inside.” Good. The Washington ecosystem could use a good meteor, though given that Trump has his own coterie of lobbyists on his transition team, it remains to be seen whether he can provide it.
But then there’s the dark side to that vindictiveness, the petulance, the enemies list, the lack of a presidential temperament. After Trump took a relieving moratorium from Twitter, he was suddenly back on last night, whining that the protests that have sprung up in city downtowns are “very unfair.” He did an about-face this morning and fired off a tweet lauding their passion, but it was too late, really. Trumpism, whatever its merits, is deeply insecure, a shortcoming that Trump himself needs to address posthaste if he’s going to govern.