Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Wall Street Journal says the U.S. casualties of Donald Trump's trade war are starting to mount:
Donald Trump's trade war has been an abstraction for most Americans so far, but the retaliation has now begun in earnest and the casualties are starting to mount. The President's beloved stock market took another header Monday on news of more restrictions on investment into the U.S., and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now down for 2018. But the biggest losers Monday were the American workers who make Harley-Davidson motorcycles whose jobs will soon be headed overseas thanks to the Trump tariffs.
Last year Mr. Trump commended Harley-Davidson for "building things in America," calling the company "a true American icon, one of the greats." And he proclaimed last week at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, "We're bringing back our jobs from other countries." Awkward timing, Mr. President. On Monday the motorcycle company announced it will shift more production out of the United States.
U.S. motorcycle sales have been on the decline, so Harley has kept its rubber side down by focusing on global growth. The company considers the EU a "critical market," and last year it sold nearly 40,000 bikes to European consumers. But in retaliation for Mr. Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, the European Union raised its tax on American-exported Harleys to 31% from 6%, effective last Friday. That amounts to a $2,200 tax on each motorcycle exported from the U.S. to the EU.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday, Harley said "the tremendous cost increase, if passed on to its dealers and retail customers, would have an immediate and lasting detrimental impact to its business in the region, reducing customer access to Harley-Davidson products and negatively impacting the sustainability of its dealers' businesses." Translation for Mr. Trump: Unlike real estate, cars and motorcycles are a global market.
Harley has opted not to raise prices, instead bearing the $90 million to $100 million annual cost of the tariffs in the short term. To avoid those trade penalties in the long term, Harley will scale back U.S. operations over the next 18 months, making more bikes overseas.
Harley hasn't provided details about how its American workforce will be affected. But Harley employs more than a thousand unionized U.S. steelworkers — the very folks the President claims he's protecting. Harley's main manufacturing facilities are in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and Mr. Trump has said the "big league" support of Harley employees helped him win the swing states in 2016.
The only response White House press secretary Sarah Sanders could muster on Monday to the Harley news is that "the European Union is trying to punish U.S. workers by engaging in unfair trade practices." But the Harley harm is made in America — that is, the White House.
Mr. Trump threw the first punch with his steel and aluminum tariffs, which have already driven up the cost of Harley's raw materials by $15 million to $20 million this year, CFO John Olin said in an April earnings call. Mr. Trump also killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have cut tariffs on American-made motorcycles. U.S. withdrawal forced Harley to pursue its "Plan B" and build a plant in Thailand to avoid Asian tariffs.
"We would rather not make the investment in that facility, but that's what's necessary to access a very important market," CEO Matt Levatich told Bloomberg in April. Meanwhile, the company will close its 800-worker Kansas City, Missouri, plant by 2019. Harley will expand operations in York, Pennsylvania, but the result is still a net loss in American jobs.
The protectionist pain isn't limited to Harley. Mid-Continent Nail of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, makes about half of the nails produced in America. But Mexican steel wire is the company's main input, and it's now subject to a 25% tariff. Mid-Continent tried passing that added cost to consumers, but purchases plummeted and buyers cancelled existing orders, opting for cheaper Chinese nails. The company has already cut 60 employees from its workforce of 500, and it will likely soon lay off 200 more. It's now pinning its hopes on a tariff exemption from the Commerce Department, which is grappling with a backlog of 21,000 similar petitions.
The list of job casualties will continue to grow. A June report by the economic consulting firm Trade Partnerships Worldwide estimates a net loss of 400,445 jobs over the next three years because of the steel and aluminum tariffs, quotas and retaliation. That's 16 jobs lost for each steel or aluminum job gained.
The damage is likely to have political consequences, as the retaliatory tariffs target industries in swing states. Wisconsin produces more than 90% of America's ginseng, and 95% of that comes from Marathon County. The county went for Mr. Trump in 2016, but it's now wrestling with the consequences of China's new 15% retaliatory tariff. Mr. Trump is also going to have some explaining to do to Wisconsin cranberry farmers, Florida orange-juice producers, and Iowa soy and corn growers.
Good luck to Republicans running on the Trump tariffs in November.
The Orange County Register says the House Intelligence Committee is not playing politics:
No agency or department of the U.S. government has unlimited power, but enforcing and maintaining the limits on power is often easier said than done.
One example of this is the fight between House Republicans and top officials at the FBI and Department of Justice over documents that Congress has been demanding for months.
Three congressional committees are conducting two investigations in the FBI and DOJ's handling of investigations into both presidential candidates in 2016. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Judiciary Committee are looking into the FBI's actions in the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations. The House intelligence Committee has a separate probe into the Trump-Russia investigation and is also looking at possible foreign intelligence surveillance abuses.
A little over a week ago, the chairmen of the three committees and House Speaker Paul Ryan called FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to a meeting and went item by item through the subpoenaed documents that had not been turned over to Congress. Then Ryan explained how it was going to be: The FBI and DOJ were going to comply with the subpoena requests by Friday, June 22, or they were going to see the full constitutional arsenal of Congress' power unleashed against them.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach and remove from office not only the president, but the vice president, all federal judges and all civil officers of the United States. Inherent in the power to impeach is the power to investigate. Although any number of privileges have been claimed as good cause to refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas, there is nothing in the Constitution about any such privileges. Push came to shove at that meeting, with Ryan vowing that there would be total compliance or there would be action on the House floor. Even short of impeachment, Wray and Rosenstein were likely looking at charges of contempt of Congress. The House has the power to jail people over that. Although it hasn't happened in a long time, it's one of the powers in the constitutional arsenal.
Right on the Friday deadline, the files began arriving on Capitol Hill and continued to arrive late into the night. But key material was missing. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes fired off a letter to the Department of Justice giving a new deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday.
The Justice Department says it is doing its best to fulfill the requests, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, noted that the DOJ turned over 1.2 million documents to its own inspector general, Michael Horowitz, but has given Congress only "a fraction" of that material. Horowitz has completed his investigation into the handling of the Clinton email probe and is now looking into whether bias on the part of top FBI investigators was a factor in the Trump-Russia investigation.
"We're not waiting," Goodlatte said over the weekend. "We're conducting that investigation ourselves in the meantime."
Although House Democrats have complained that the Republican committee chairmen are playing politics with intelligence, nobody is playing. Every agency of the federal government answers to the American people. This is what it looks like when it's happening.
Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump's travel ban:
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the third iteration of President Trump's travel ban on people from several mostly Muslim countries was facially neutral and that the government had "set forth a sufficient national security justification" for the policy. That's the threshold the ban needed to meet to pass legal muster. But only an amnesiac would forget the clear animus toward immigrants — with a special nasty focus on Muslims — that Trump exhibited on the campaign trail and that propelled this foolish and counterproductive policy.
One of the first things Trump did after taking office was to act on his campaign statement that he wanted a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims" entering the U.S. That position was forged in reaction to international terrorism by Islamic extremists, including the San Bernardino massacre by an American-born Muslim and his Pakistani wife, as well as the then-raging war against Islamic State. And it was based on clear and deplorable perceptions among Trump and his nativist advisors that the actions of the few indict the many. "I think Islam hates us," Trump said in 2016. "There's a tremendous hatred there."
After several court battles sent him back to the drawing board, Trump finally signed the narrowly tailored travel ban that was at issue in Tuesday's ruling. The administration framed it within a national security context and said the countries from which travelers were banned had failed to share sufficient information for U.S. officials to determine whether potential travelers posed a threat. That ban applied to six predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad (which was later removed) — as well as to North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela.
Significantly, the court held that while most of the countries targeted by Trump's ban are predominantly Muslim, "that fact alone does not support an inference of religious hostility, given that the policy covers just 8% of the world's Muslim population and is limited to countries that were previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks." So the president managed to affix a large enough fig leaf to hide his bias.
As policy, though, the ban is awful. It creates a broad exclusion for entry to the U.S. based on discriminatory misconceptions and punishes entire nations for the misdeeds of a few. And it doesn't even get the nations right. The countries targeted in the ban are not responsible for the fatal terror attacks that have occurred in recent years. The 9/11 attackers were primarily from Saudi Arabia, and terrorist attacks in Europe over the last few years were committed primarily by Europeans who embraced Islamic extremism. The linkage between terrorist acts and the banned nations is unreasonable, as is this policy.
The Boston Herald says White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should not have been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia:
We can do better than this. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should not have been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va.
Apparently the restaurant staff voted to have her tossed because she defended the administration's policies that they found offensive.
That is her job as press secretary. Just as it was for Josh Earnest under Barack Obama and Dana Perino under George W. Bush. They defended the administration and shaped messaging on a daily basis. To someone new to politics who holds opposing views, it may seem like brash doublespeak or flat-out lying to witness a press secretary in action, but it is business as usual in Washington, D.C.
We should not encourage political newbies to employ bullying tactics based on their anemic understanding of modern politics.
Likewise, we should not encourage the president to use the prestige of his office to denigrate a small business. On June 25, President Trump tweeted, "The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!"
We need a time-out in this country.
The Mail & Guardian on locking up migrants:
... The flood of images and a newly released ProPublica audio recording detailing the horror of children ripped from their parents and detained at the United States-Mexico border is becoming a tsunami. A common and wildly untrue response to this "zero tolerance" campaign is that it is "unAmerican" and runs counter to the nation's mores. In fact, the breaking up of families has deep, tuberous roots in America's past. Enslaved children were routinely sold separately from their parents on the auction block.
US President Donald Trump's reasoning for separating families seeking asylum, and his restrictive policies against even documented migrants, is to prevent the US from becoming a mirror of Europe, specifically Germany — where, he has untruthfully claimed, migrants are driving up the crime rate.
In South Africa — which we see as "our land" — we too are watching the "borderisation" of the state, where security concerns trumping human rights and morality are the order of the day.
Perhaps we have become so numb and strung out by the government's many failings that we are also employing its tactics by muddling, evading and inevitably shifting the blame to the most vulnerable in our society. Why are these outsiders here? Why do they not respect our borders? "If you don't have borders, you don't have a country!" as Trump tweeted.
Even as we rail against the Trump administration's "summer camp"/"boarding schools"/cages that essentially criminalise migrant children, we would do well to remember our own treatment of those detained at the Lindela repatriation centre.
It is almost exclusively black people who are incarcerated at Lindela, but we are more compelled to voice our anger against the Trump administration's policy instead of looking at our own version of this practice. This "otherness" erases migrants' humanity and negates our capacity for empathy. After our government has institutionalised their foreignness, locking them in the amber of inhumanity, we feign surprise each time violence flares.
Forms, red tape, queues, inhumane treatment. Long journeys to face being turned away or worse: arrest and expulsion. Outdated information, incorrect instructions, streams of funds changing hands only to lessen the pressing anxiety and humiliation. South Africa, like the US, knows the value of making life so untenable for its "brothers" that they think twice before seeking asylum. The seemingly endless battering of bodies, minds and souls continues until it is finally, abundantly clear: you are not welcome.
This, my brothers and sisters, is not your land.
The Washington Post says something is making Americans sick in Cuba and China:
When the first attacks on U.S. diplomats occurred in Cuba in late 2016, the causes were mysterious and the circumstances strange. Cuban authorities said they had no idea what was causing the odd noises nor the ill effects that followed. The speculation was equally thin — was it an acoustic weapon, or something else? Recently, a similar set of circumstances has emerged in Guangzhou, China, and yet another case (has) been confirmed in Cuba. The causes are still unknown. But the continued reports of injury require a no-holds-barred, urgent investigation and response.
The fact of a parallel occurrence in China makes this look less like an inadvertence or a malfunctioning piece of equipment, as some had speculated, and more like a deliberate campaign to harm the diplomats. The United States termed the Cuba event a "health attack," and it has now issued two separate health warnings to Americans in China. Anyone experiencing "any unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns," the State Department said, should seek medical care, urging Americans to be on guard against symptoms including "dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping." In all, 25 U.S. diplomats and family members have been affected in Cuba, along with 10 Canadians who reported similar symptoms. In China, one U.S. employee from the consulate in Guangzhou was found on May 16 to have suffered similar injuries, and an undisclosed number of other consular staff and family members have been evacuated for further tests. The diplomats reported hearing odd noises such as marbles dropping and rolling on a floor, the sound of crickets, static, and the reverberations felt when a car window is open, followed by illnesses, including minor traumatic brain injury or concussion. But they did not hit their heads. There is still one more case from Havana that is under evaluation but not yet medically confirmed.
Diplomats abroad routinely face dangers and health risks — it comes with the territory. But the United States cannot and should not tolerate a campaign of harm against its employees. The FBI and medical experts have been involved in the investigation, and so far no one has found the cause. Two published studies were inconclusive. Separately, a University of Miami researcher and colleagues have pointed to signs of possible inner-ear damage among the diplomats. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he has formed an interagency task force to deal with the incidents.
All expertise in the U.S. government, including forensic, medical, engineering, intelligence and sleuthing, must be deployed to figure out what is happening. The hosts, Cuba and China, are authoritarian regimes with heavy surveillance systems. They hear the sound of a pin drop. They must be pressed for genuine cooperation. If a third country is carrying out the attacks, it must be found and held to account.