Hypocrisy and politics have enjoyed a long and beautiful marriage, going together like peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and vanilla, bacon and, well, anything else, for as long as laws have existed. Washington, in particular, has made an impressive fetish of “do as I say, not as I do.”
After all, it’s a town in which elected officials will spend years arguing over health care plans they will never need, regulations they can sidestep, and laws they do not have to follow.
So, in one sense, President Trump’s “Made in America” week, touting American-made products despite most of the Trump family products originating from far-flung foreign corners, is truly a dog-bites-man story. That is, a dog-bites-rich-man story.
Yes. It goes without saying that both the optics and the politics of Trump’s “do as I say, not as I do” prescription for the American economy is the definition of hypocrisy. If Trump truly thinks buying American is the best way to rev her economic engines, of course he should insist his own products are American-made. Twitter was quick to point this out, obvious as it was, through photos of Chinese- and Indonesian-made ties, shirts, dresses and shoes from Trump and his daughter Ivanka’s businesses.
“Awkward!” crowed his detractors. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol tweeted out a multiple choice questionnaire:
“In honor of #MadeInAmericaWeek, this week you should: watch Broadchurch, read Tocqueville, listen to Mozart, (or) buy a Trump tie”?
As the media pounced on the new catnip, Trump’s surrogates and spokespeople tried to spin the unspinnable.
White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said that, to the contrary, Trump’s own business experiences and aversion to American-made production means that “he’s, in a very unique way, able to talk about the challenges that so many of those companies face as they choose to expand.” This defense may rightly point to his expertise in the area but does nothing to address his hypocrisy.
One of Trump’s former economic advisers, Stephen Moore, likewise suggested that there’s nothing wrong with the president making a distinction between what’s good for his own businesses and what’s good for the country. “You know, look, Donald Trump has the right to buy a cheaper product for his company so it can retain competitiveness.” Again, this is of course true — it’s not illegal to be a hypocrite. But it used to at least be a little unseemly. Now, apparently, it’s a unique qualification!
But the reason most average voters won’t join in the outrage over Trump’s obvious double standard is that, in the Trump era, things like hypocrisy are now evidently a rich man’s concern.
The very people who elected Trump themselves complained of the rank hypocrisy of Washington’s elite often saying one thing and doing another, protecting themselves and the interests of the monied instead of the middle class, and living beyond the reach of invasive bureaucratic burdens like the tax code, Obamacare and business regulations.
Trump, a billionaire media and real estate mogul who’d successfully used loopholes in the system to his advantage for decades while financially supporting both Democrats and Republicans in big elections, was nonetheless elected as an “outsider.” As he is doing now, Trump transcended his own hypocrisies and insisted that real America had bigger concerns than stuff like tone, temperament and character. In short, only rich people care about hypocrisy. Real people do not — even when they say they do.
It’s twisted and meandering circular logic, but true nonetheless. He epitomizes the very thing his supporters claimed to hate, and yet is somehow inoculated from it.
While things like hypocrisy and character should matter, Trump’s “Made in America” week is a good idea — if followed up by serious policy. Where America stands with China, the world’s largest producer of steel and aluminum, what Trump can deliver on tax reform and overhauling regulations, and whether we can avert a trade war will all determine how much this theme week actually meant.
But until then, we’ll just have to accept the fact that in Trump’s America, the goose and the gander live very different lives.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.