Week In Politics
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And President Trump has landed in France for the G-7 summit, after sounding like he'd just assume it'd be the G-6 without him. He repeated this week that the U.S. economy is strong. NPR's senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: Ron, I want to start with a question that I have to raise carefully, but I think this week we have to raise it. Quite a week for what I'll call hollers from the president. I am the chosen one, he said. He passed on a tweet in which he claimed, in Israel, he's known as the king of Israel and loved like the second coming of God. He said American Jews who didn't support him are disloyal, called the prime minister of Denmark, NATO ally, nasty because she said the - they can't sell Greenland to the U.S. Then he wondered yesterday if Jerome - Jay - Powell, head of the Federal Reserve, is an enemy of the United States. What are we seeing and hearing?
ELVING: You want to say it was a week like no other, except that these weeks are coming more often. The president contradicts his own communications team. Then he contradicts himself. Does he want tax cuts? On the tariffs, are they on? Are they off? Are they bigger than ever? Does he want to buy Greenland? And then yesterday, we saw those emotional reactions, first to the Chinese, then to the Fed, then to the stock market drop, all in real time on Twitter like some kind of tantrum.
So is there a method here? Is this the president's strategy? Or is he just beating up on scapegoats ahead of next year's election? The world has to wonder where he's going with all this or whether he even knows.
SIMON: China announced another salvo in the trade war - $75 billion of retaliatory tariffs, as you noted. The president replied by ordering American companies to pitch in - ordering.
ELVING: He said, quote, "I hereby order," unquote, American businesses to seek alternatives to China. That is unusual language, to put it mildly. It doesn't just push the envelope on presidential authority over private enterprise; it rips it open.
SIMON: And he's openly lobbying for some kind of lifeline from the Fed, which is not necessarily their job, either, is it?
ELVING: The Fed's dual mission is always the same - to control inflation and encourage full employment. Now, right now, the numbers say that the Fed's done a pretty good job tapping the accelerator and tapping the brake when they've seen fit. But it is not their job to make sure that the president looks good. And so that's a source of real conflict between these institutions.
SIMON: As we noted, the president has arrived in France for the G-7 meeting. He seems to also be using the occasion to get closer to Russia once more.
ELVING: And apparently proposing that Russia be brought back into the group, an idea that's already been rejected today by the European Council president. This is one way that Trump uses Vladimir Putin and that relationship to perhaps pressure some of our allies more toward his positions. But it's also at least potentially a way in which Putin can use Trump to weaken the European alliance and advance his own agenda.
SIMON: Ron, there has been so much violence and death this summer. And we know opinion polls show the American public broadly supports, for example, red flag laws in hopes of averting mass shootings. Congress seems to differ with the American public when it comes to trying to control access to guns.
ELVING: Polls do show support for red flag laws. It also is true that Americans broadly support universal background checks for gun buyers. So of course that may be what the USA wants, but the NRA is opposed. And this is another issue where the president has been back-and-forth and on both sides, sometimes within a day. So the test is simple. What will the president actually make the Senate do, not just on red flag laws, but on background checks and military-style weapons, when the Senate returns next month?
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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