Back in the fall of 2015, in response to a column I had written on the chaos Donald Trump had brought to the Republican presidential race, a reader told me that he intended to vote for Trump in the primary because he (the reader) wanted to be able to say “Merry Christmas” again.
I figured the guy was joking — tossing out a sarcastic reference to Trump’s thoroughly mocked campaign promise recycled from the “War on Christmas” stories that Bill O’Reilly and others at Fox News had made popular years earlier (as far back as the Bush administration):
Trump: ‘If I become president, we’re all going to be saying “Merry Christmas” again’https://t.co/oHXFmmg9jS
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) November 10, 2015
But the reader wasn’t joking, which I discovered after asking him why he needed Trump’s help to say something that I (along with countless other Christians in this country) had never stopped saying in the first place.
He explained that the American Left had stripped away our right to extend the seasonal Christian sentiment without fear of punishment. And he believed that Trump and only Trump was capable of changing that. He didn’t know exactly what Trump would do to achieve such change, and wipe the supposedly offensive “Happy Holidays” phrase from our cultural palette, but he was convinced that Trump would get it all straightened out. So Trump had his vote.
It was kind of disheartening to believe that someone would base a rather important decision on a decade-old media narrative, especially when the candidate who invoked it was only doing so for a cheap audience pop. I mean, even O’Reilly (the theme’s loudest prosecutor) had proudly declared the “War” to be over (the pro-Christmas forces having won) back when Obama was still president.
Yet, there are people who genuinely believe that Trump, in taking back the White House for the Republican Party, did in fact — somehow — save Christmas:
And the president himself is apparently one of those people:
People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2017
Well, hold onto your jingle bells because he just did it again. Ho-ho-ho!
Last Tuesday, President Trump said that he’ll be “delaying” new tariffs that he had announced on Chinese goods, as a favor to U.S. Christmas shoppers who might be adversely affected by them.
How very thoughtful.
But if you’ve been listening at all to what our president (who nicknamed himself “Tariff Man” last summer) has been saying for many months about this trade war against China, one wouldn’t blame you for being a little confused. After all, according to Trump, our country has been benefiting greatly from these tariffs — “getting rich,” in fact, off of the billions and billions of dollars being paid directly to the U.S. Treasury by China:
….I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
Talks with China continue in a very congenial manner – there is absolutely no need to rush – as Tariffs are NOW being paid to the United States by China of 25% on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods & products. These massive payments go directly to the Treasury of the U.S….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2019
….with the U.S., and wishes it had not broken the original deal in the first place. In the meantime, we are receiving Billions of Dollars in Tariffs from China, with possibly much more to come. These Tariffs are paid for by China devaluing & pumping, not by the U.S. taxpayer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019
Massive amounts of money from China and other parts of the world is pouring into the United States for reasons of safety, investment, and interest rates! We are in a very strong position. Companies are also coming to the U.S. in big numbers. A beautiful thing to watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2019
So… if China’s paying us all of this tariff money, and making every day feel like Christmas here in the United States, how would relief from those tariffs be of benefit to U.S. consumers?
Is this some kind of reindeer game? Perhaps the Elf on the Shelf knows, but he’s saying nothin’.
The truth is that President Trump has finally admitted (albeit indirectly) that he’s been lying all along about who flips the dime for these tariffs. It’s not China, and never has been. It’s Americans — specifically U.S. importers who order these goods and materials from China, and then raise prices on American consumers to make up for the money they would otherwise lose. By definition, tariffs are taxes, and in Trump’s trade war, the payers of those taxes have been the American people.
This of course isn’t breaking news to anyone who has even a basic grasp of what tariffs are, and how they work. But a lot of people don’t know, nor would they otherwise have any reason to. And that’s exactly what Trump has been counting on.
One can certainly present the case that narrowing trade channels with China (by making items too expensive for U.S. importers) could potentially generate Chinese concessions that would be a net gain for the United States (an unlikely premise considering what is happening to lots of U.S. farmers and manufacturers, as well as some glaring geopolitical realities). But it doesn’t change the fact that Trump has been lying about the details of this trade war from the very beginning, and has established a pattern of billing Americans for ventures he has insisted will be paid for, or are being paid for, by other countries.
We often hear from loyal Trump supporters that we should assess the president by his deeds, and not his words (a grace never afforded to anyone else in his position). But when a political leader makes a public case, and builds public support, for a policy based on pure fabrications (while hoping the American people are stupid enough to fall for it), that in itself is a “deed” — and a despicable one at that.
At least, we on the right used to think so, back when President Obama was promising that we could keep our doctor and insurance plan.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a very good thing that these new tariffs aren’t happening (at least for now). I wish the previous ones weren’t happening either, because too many Americans are being hurt by them. But we shouldn’t confuse this allowance by Trump for a Christmas present to Americans, nor should we confuse it with a Grinch-like story of redemption, where Christmas spirit suddenly grew the president’s heart three sizes.
This decision was much more likely brought on by the escalating trade war’s drag on the stock market, and growing fears of an economic recession, just as we head into an election year. Up until recently, what relatively little bad economic news we’ve had during the Trump presidency has come as a result of the president’s own trade policies: farm bankruptcies, agricultural bailouts, manufacturing plant shutdowns and relocations, rising consumer prices, etc.
Now, with the broader economy (including the world economy) possibly losing steam, the president can’t afford more unforced errors that would let his most effective political bragging right (and only bragging right, as far as half of the country is concerned) slip right through his fingers.
Because if the economy is looking weak in the months heading up to November of 2020, it really will take a Christmas miracle for Trump to remain in office for four more years.