- Larry Kudlow, a Reagan era policy wonk and talking head, is joining Trump’s White House.
- The fact that he disagrees with Trump’s trade agenda and is still willing to join makes him the perfect candidate.
- Kudlow won’t be able to dissuade Trump from doing what he wants, but Kudlow will get what he wants either way. He’ll be relevant again.
Larry Kudlow will join the White House to serve as an economic adviser to the Trump administration, and based on his career and Trump’s personality, there couldn’t be a better pick.
Kudlow will bring the perfect mix of star power and old Reaganite-GOP ideological nonsense Trump needs in his White House to make Republicans like Paul Ryan (and only Republicans like Paul Ryan) sleep better at night.
Everyone else should know better.
You see there are two kinds of Republicans allowed in the White House now. There are the Trump supporters – nationalists, populists, whatever you would like to call them.
And then there are the guys that make Donald Trump feel young again. These are the Reagan administration replays, including supposed fiscal conservatives like Stephen Moore. They remind Trump of a time when he ran around New York City in a gaudy limousine while a man who once played a cowboy on TV was president. They are the ones who champion eternal tax cuts and have conveniently forgotten that Reagan wrote the rules of global trade that Trump is now tearing apart.
Kudlow represents the latter camp, and in him we have the perfect example of how this crowd – which has been deaf to decades of evidence that their trickle-down policy Gospel doesn’t work – contorted willingly into men who could also tout Donald Trump’s anti-free trade agenda.
It didn’t take much doing. All Trump had to do was make these men feel relevant again – something they haven’t been in quite some time.
The conversion process
Kudlow has played with the idea of running for political office for years. He was part of a New York City dinner circuit that includes people who believe the US should go back to the gold standard, rich people who don’t think they should have to give back to society in the form of taxes, and anyone interested in either of those ideas who wanted to write a book about them.
This used to be the upper echelons fiscal conservatism. You could find these people dining at Steve Forbes’ house (or building) or at the now-defunct Four Seasons Restaurant in midtown Manhattan, picking at Dover sole and complaining about how much money Democrats spend.
At first, these people were horrified at the prospect of Trump. These were Jeb Bush people – traditionalists. Imagine their panic when, before he took office, when Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that free markets are “dumb.”
But then Stephen Moore, a sometime economist, most time talking head, had his come to Jesus moment. Trump made him an adviser. Trump made him important.
Then another thing happened. The same New York City insiders who were coordinating those dinners started inviting Steve Bannon to the table. After all, it seemed that Bannon’s people were the people taking over the GOP. It would be unseemly for people as rich and successful as Kudlow and Forbes and such to have no clout in the administration – regardless of principle.
Kudlow himself is said to have started entertaining the anti-free trade Bannon months before talk surfaced that he might be in the running for a position in the White House. Perhaps he was just trying to hear Bannon’s ideas but that seems silly. All of Breitbart’s ideas are as old as time – the xenophobia, the fear, the protectionism – it’s all very old and requires little explanation.
Recently Kudlow has spoken out against tariffs, but it’s hard to imagine that he can dissuade the President from continuing with them. Trump believes in that part of his economic agenda more than anything else, and if Gary Cohn’s exit taught us anything it’s that any adviser now needs to get with that program or get out.
David Stockman, who was the Office of Management and Budget Director under Reagan and Kudlow’s former boss, agrees. He told CNBC that Kudlow won’t be able to pull Trump “off the deep end” of his populist agenda.
Either way, Stockman said, any damage caused by Trump’s trade agenda is dwarfed by the economic disaster that will be wrought by the massive spending and tax cuts that Republicans of Kudlow’s denomination passed last year. Kudlow, he said, is a “Wall Street cheerleader.”
And he will be Trump’s cheerleader too. If he wants the job, and to be relevant again, he doesn’t have another choice.
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