I can’t remember ever seeing a President-Elect take steps toward fulfilling a campaign promise before he even takes office. Yet that is exactly what Donald Trump has done in convincing Carrier Corp. to roll back part of its plan to move jobs from Indiana to Mexico. One may take issue with the details, but even some of Trump’s detractors in the press seem to be giving the action some grudging praise.
Carrier is an ironic example, because in the past it was a favorite poster firm of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman regarding the glories of globalization. Yes, Friedman has conceded, Carrier’s IT jobs might be offshored to India, but wait! — those offices in Indian where the IT work will be done will use Carrier air conditioners! A net win for U.S. workers, Friedman explained.
“Well, not so fast,” I countered. Sales of a few more air conditioners in India isn’t going to lead to Carrier hiring more engineers; the design work has already been done, more or less a fixed cost. What about factory jobs? Well, no, no such effect there either, since it will make sense for Carrier to manufacture locally there in India. Yes, Carrier’s profits will go up, but for U.S. workers the offshoring to India is probably a net loss.
Trump’s action with Carrier is arguably Democratic Party-ish. Indeed, it is something that — dare I make the comparison? — Bernie Sanders might have done. It is certainly NOT the kind of thing President Obama has done.
Meanwhile many Trump-ophobes can’t bear to give him any credit. James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine was on one of the SF NPR stations this morning, as a guest on Michael Krasny’s highbrow talk show, KQED Forum. Fallows and the two other journalists on the panel were complaining that Trump is telling his followers not to believe the mainstream press. To be sure, the guests and Krasny made a number of good points, but they also unwittingly showed why the media should indeed be viewed with a skeptical eye.
Fallows is a good case in point. The Atlantic urged its readers not to vote for Trump, only the third presidential election endorsement in its 159-year history, calling Trump a “huckster” and worse. The magazine even ran a major article psychoanalyzing The Donald, and as Fallows pointed out this morning, “We” (the magazine, via the article) concluded that Trump is a narcissist. And the article makes a good case for that claim.
But what did Fallows NOT quote from that article this morning? He said nothing, for instance, on this passage:
In a 2013 Psychological Science research article, behavioral scientists ranked U.S. presidents on characteristics of what the authors called “grandiose narcissism.” Lyndon Johnson scored the highest, followed closely by Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson. Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton were next. Millard Fillmore ranked the lowest. Correlating these ranks with objective indices of presidential performance, the researchers found that narcissism in presidents is something of a double-edged sword. On the positive side, grandiose narcissism is associated with initiating legislation, public persuasiveness, agenda setting, and historians’ ratings of “greatness.” On the negative side, it is also associated with unethical behavior and congressional impeachment resolutions.
But no, all KQED listeners heard from Fallows this morning was that the article found that, Oh my god, we’re doomed, Trump is a narcissist! If one actually reads the article, one finds that the situation is far more nuanced than that.
It remains to be seen whether Trump, once he settles into the Oval Office, will “dance with the one what brung ‘im.” Other than Sessions and maybe Nikki Haley, Trump’s cabinet picks so far raise concerns that Trump will be talked out of loyalty to the ones who put him into office. Yet another Goldman Sachs alum in Treasury? Really? But his action with Carrier, with whatever flaws, is a heck of a good start.