Who’s Right: Trump or the GOP?

Editorial credit: JStone /

(This article has been updated at the bottom.)

Over the last two weeks President Trump has bucked GOP orthodoxy on two major issues that are near and dear to conservative hearts.

The first has to do with gun rights, and the second with trade policy.

When Vice President Mike Pence, ever the voice of reason, was cautioning Congress to think carefully before acting on gun control.

Here’s what Pence said, “Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons.” The President then jumped in and said something that shocked his Republican colleagues. “Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” the President began. “I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time… Take the guns first, go through due process second,” the President finished.

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This is a lot to take in. It’s not just about the 2nd Amendment either. Consider the ramifications of the President’s line of thought. “Take the guns first. Go through due process second.”

Let’s be honest, if President Barack Obama or Bill Clinton had said something similar, the right would have exploded in rage. We would have been clamoring for the media to denounce their unConstitutional rhetoric, and we would have demanded that Congress take a stand against the President’s comments. We would have rallied, called for protests or demonstrations, and conservatives would have been all over the media wringing their hands about the possibility that the President might take our guns.

None of that has happened in the wake of President Trump’s comments. In fact, only #NeverTrump Republicans have even dared to bring up just how wrong President Trump’s comments were, and they complain about everything he says. So it’s become very difficult to take any of their complaints seriously.

Then, just days later, President Trump fired the opening salvo in what could become America’s next trade war.

Just as the markets soared, cheering President Trump’s  election in 2016, and then surged again on the back of the President’s tax reform bill which lowered taxes for 90%+ Americans. The market reacted when just last week the President announced that he would support an increase in tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

Stocks plunged Thursday after President Trump announced plans to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The Dow closed more than 420 points down after the announcement. Trump said the tariffs will level the playing field for American companies and help them expand after plant closings in recent years…

“You will have protection for the first time in a long while and you are going to regrow your industries,” Trump told the executives. “That’s all I’m asking. You have to regrow your industries.”

The logic is not unreasonable. I believe it is flawed, but it is not unreasonable. Our steel and aluminum industries have suffered over the last few decades, but that has more to do with our nation leaving manufacturing behind and embracing a more modern economy, than it does anything to do with unfair trade practices.

Trump last week said he would impose tariffs on imported steel to protect a U.S. industry that employs about 140,000 Americans. Still, analysts say that by raising the price of steel, those same tariffs stand to hurt a far larger group of U.S. workers: the 6.5 million who work in industries that buy steel — from automakers to aircraft manufacturers to suppliers of building materials.

Trump has vowed to this week impose 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, in the interest of protecting America’s national security.

The problem is that such action flies in the face of conservative (and Republican) orthodoxy on economic principles.

Conservatives espouse free and fair trade for everyone.  We have always argued that lowering tariffs and providing easier access to our markets would be beneficial for our trade partners but also for our us.

While the President sees trade deficits, imbalances, and manufacturing declines as failures of free trade, the reality is far more complex than that. While our tariffs have remained low, allowing foreign manufacturers the chance to succeed here, our taxes have been too high, creating roadblocks for our own manufacturers. The answer to this problem is not to raise tariffs which could lead to a “trade war” and hurt our manufacturers who are trying to sell their goods abroad. The answer is to lower taxes and give our manufacturers the leg up on international competition that they need by creating a better climate for manufacturing here at home.

Instead of making our business climate more inhospitable to foreign manufacturers, let’s make it more hospitable to our manufacturers.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) who has been one of President Trump’s chief conservative philosophical opponents, explaining why trade wars are bad for American businesses.

“Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides. Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries. Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does.” 

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who has been one of the President’s fiercest allies, echoed Sasse’s concerns about what raising tariffs would mean for the average American worker.

“Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford. I encourage the president to carefully consider all of the implications of raising the cost of steel and aluminum on American manufacturers and consumers.” 

At this point, it doesn’t seem like the President is listening to his Republican colleagues on either trade or guns. These dueling issues have some in the GOP wondering what will happen if the Democrats take back control of Congress in 2018? Could they join with President Trump in passing new gun control legislation? Could they together force through, new taxes and even higher tariffs?

The future is unsure, and the President’s staunches conservative supporters are still hoping that he might change his mind on both of these very important issues.

Here’s Senator Sasse on Fox News explaining the problems with President Trump’s rhetoric this week, particularly why he believes the President is wrong about tariffs and guns:

Partial Transcript from RCP:

Brett Baier: OK, the other thing you have a big concern about is what he said about guns, and basically due process. He has since — the White House has since walked back that (ph) and said he wasn’t talking about affecting the second amendment. But you kind of jumped on it put out statement about what he said in that meeting.

Ben Sasse: Yes, so here is what America means. It means we believe rights come at us from God via nature and government exists to secure and protect our rights. Our government doesn’t give us rights. When you say something like, we’ll take the guns first, we’ll grab the guns first and later we’ll have a due process conversation, what that means is government is first and hopefully you have bureaucrat that you trust to decide what rights you have.

That’s not how America works. So American citizens have the whole bill of rights available to them and in the cases of people who are deranged or have committed crimes, then we do due process and take away certain privileges they have.

Brett Baier: Do you think that this — that there is a possibility of getting something on school safety and guns out of the Congress?

Ben Sasse: I think yesterday you saw David French issue a proposal that the White House was paying some attention to. It didn’t get a lot of play in yesterday’s reality TV governance meeting they did. But David French was talking about gun violence restraining orders. And I think there’s some interest in things that.

In the cases of people who have mental health problems, we should obviously do something to make sure that they can’t get access to weapons. But that needs to happen via due process, not through some bureaucrat who gets to preordain who gets what first amendment and second amendment rights.

Brett Baier: Understanding you don’t like what he said at the meeting, there were a lot of people who looked at the meeting on immigration and the meeting on gun control and said, hey listen, its open, he’s got Democrats and Republicans, they’re throwing out ideas. Why is that so bad to be talked about in a — in kind of a negative light as reality TV?

Ben Sasse: Well, transparency is great, but you don’t try to rewrite the constitution shooting from the hip. And I think that’s what you saw yesterday when you Diane Feinstein from California, giddy as a three year old kid, ecstatic about the idea that there’s going to be whole bunch of new gun bans coming into America.

Brett Baier: But you know that’s not going to happen, right senator. I mean, you’re there up on Capitol Hill to prevent that from happening and this president isn’t going to push that, is he? Do you truly believe that?

Ben Sasse: I am excited by the fact the White House, which has the biggest megaphone in the world, today said a bunch more truly American things about the Bill of Rights and what rights American citizens have. Yesterday in that meeting, the tape is the tape, and if you say you’re going to grab guns first and worry about due process later, that’s not something you give your listeners and viewers a lot of comfort.


President Trump may be relenting on his decision to move forward with steel and aluminum tariffs. Earlier today he announced that he would be willing to rescind the increase in tariffs… IF… Mexico and Canada would renegotiate NAFTA. 🇺🇸

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