The Bully President Shows His Colors in the Mexican Tariff Fight

The Bully President Shows His Colors in the Mexican Tariff Fight


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Mexican tariff bluff demonstrated two very important examples of President Trump’s modus operandi; one of which is strictly a function of the President’s behavior and one of which is how his governing style is treated. On the one-hand, President Trump demonstrated once again that he indeed is not a negotiator but an intimidator. He does not enter a conversation or a debate with a rival with a desire to resolve the conflict through a give and take. The President sees every negotiation as a confrontation which must be won. There is no compromise, Trump must win every time; even when he loses. Losing is something that Donald Trump does not do, even if it is obvious that he has lost.

The events that ended with the President stepping back on Friday from his threat to impose tariffs on Mexico this Monday, was obviously a battle that he had lost. It was exactly like his 2016 campaign promise that he would make Mexico pay for and build the wall. Similarly, it was exactly like the armies of caravans that the President said were on the verge of invading the United States in the weeks before the 2018 election.

There is a problem at America’s southern border. The immigration processing and interdicting system on both sides of the border is not effective. People who should not be admitted are entering the United States. Divided families and children who are not being reunited with their parents is an outrageous disgrace. There also are people who have a genuine fear of persecution in their home country, just as there were hundreds of thousands of Jews who were denied entry into the United States before and during World War II because of America’s discriminatory immigration policy.

America’s immigration policy is broken and desperately in need of fixing. The immigrants who are here, need a legal status that will enable them to work legally and continue to contribute—as they have for years—to the vibrancy of certain critical sectors of the American economy. The Trump Administration has still not developed a comprehensive policy except to “keep them out” and/or “lock them up”; all while misusing appropriated Government resources and funds from the military and elsewhere.

The problem is that President Trump does not want to make policy only to give orders. He has no interest in compromise and believes he can beat up those who oppose his views, domestically, globally, economically, and politically. Despite his suggestions to the contrary, this tactic is failing on virtually every front.

On the other hand, the President’s behavior is greatly affected in how the public hears his messages. Since the 2016 election campaign, the media has covered the President’s campaign events as if they were news. He received and continues to receive hours of free media attention, especially on television, for what are clearly political events.

The President and all the forms of media know that the American people are glued to their televisions or their computers for news. While this is true for traditional media, the Pew Trust reported that over 45% of Americans receive some or most of their news from social media. It has been calculated for Americans below the age of 30 as many as 70% of this population obtain their news from various forms of social media.

It is not the job of the press to provide the President with blanket coverage for matters which are blatantly political. Certainly, matters of State or policy initiatives ought to be fully covered but not rallies and campaign events. No political events from either party deserve live coverage, especially as all candidates continue to try to exploit the press for free coverage as they go about slashing and attacking each other. (For much of the electronic media their political coverage, ironically, also creates an enormous revenue loss from advertisements.)  Blatantly political rallies are campaign events and deserve to be covered as part of regular news. Because the President’s own television station, Fox News, covers his political events as news, does not mean that MSNBC, for example, should be spending its life critiquing his rallies.

The linkage between how the President seeks to govern and how he is covered is clear. The Mexican border crisis is a matter which needs to be identified, clarified, and resolved by interested parties. It ought not be an event which is made into a nasty political charade.

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