Michael Wolraich's picture

    Mr. Trump, You're No Teddy Roosevelt

    “I think Donald Trump sees himself larger than life,” said former House Speaker John Boehner recently. “He kind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, another guy who saw himself larger than life.”

    As a Roosevelt scholar, I beg to differ. Theodore Roosevelt did not see himself as larger than life; he was larger than life. We don’t celebrate him because of his ego; we celebrate him because he was a hero who embodied and championed the virtues that we Americans admire: honesty, courage, compassion, and resolve.

    Read the full story at The Daily Beast



    If Teddy Roosevelt were president now, Donald never would have run because the investigations into his fraudulent charities and slimy overseas business dealings would have been just so tremendous that Trump would have wound up hosting a reality show from prison. Sad!

    Lock him up

    Congratulations on the publication of this piece.  I disagree, however, with the premise that Trump's call to end free trade with totalitarian China is retreating behind a wall.  In fact, nothing elevated China to its current rank as the second most powerful nation on earth and a worldwide economic and military threat as much as our self-defeating one-sided economic relationship with it.  In China, workers are paid a tenth or what Americans earn doing comparable work, unions are illegal, environmental laws are few and often unenforced and the government maintains its currency at an artificially low level.  For all of these reasons, which explain our current annual trade deficit with China of over 350 billion dollars and the loss of nearly a million American jobs between 2000 and 2007, Trump is correct to insist on significant changes to the terms of our economic relationship with China.

    Growth of unions in China. Environmental laws have continued to expand in the years since I lived there. Chinese wages have risen tremendously with success.

    US exports have continually grown outside the 2008 crash and the last 2 years (likely due to fall in oil prices but also price of foodstuffs).

    TPP, flawed as it is, was designed to divert some of China's trade control in the Asia-Pacific. I don't understand linking articles complaining about falling exports while holding positions against trade deals that would spur exports.

    In the 90's, US production facilities couldn't keep up with the volumes we were dealing with. China had the people power that let us expand without hitting a resource wall, while exporting our manufacturing pollution problem - south LA in the early 80's was a mess - no longer.

    Complaints about NAFTA continue, but Canada and Mexico continue to be our largest export destinations, even as they produce goods to return to us. Bilateral trade is a good thing. Asymmetrical may or may not be a problem.


    1) "Growth of unions in China" (emphasis supplied)- although you link to this expression, the article which you cite makes clear there is but one union in China and it is state-controlled (not a real workers union at all in other words).  Workers cannot form their own unions and have no control over the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.  Moreover, per your reference, the totalitarian Communist party has been arresting and detaining labor rights activists part as "part of larger move in recent years, especially under President Xi Jinping, to tighten up on all kinds of rights advocacy and open criticism of government policies."

    2) US exports may have, as you write, "continually grown outside the 2008 crash" but our trade deficit with China continues to worsen.  It was the biggest ever in 2015.

    3) If we had hit some sort of manufacturing capacity in the 90s due to a labor shortage, we would have seen rampant wage inflation.  This did not happen.  Moreover, to the extent that there was a shortage of workers, the result would have been mostly salutary as wages would have risen and, in relatively short order, oft-lamented productivity increases would have alleviated the crisis.

    4) Past pollution in the Los Angeles basin resulted mostly from inefficient automobiles.  The Clean Air Act, catalytic converters, and state and local regulations have made the air cleaner but there's still work to be done.  Trade with China greatly exacerbates the worldwide environmental crisis because, as I wrote, China's new environmental laws, which you praise, are poorly enforced.  Moreover, Chinese imports have to be transported across the ocean either by jet or, more likely, diesel-powered containers ships.  Both methods are terrible for the environment.

    5) We run trade deficits with Mexico and Canada.

    " ... and the loss of nearly a million American jobs between 2000 and 2007 ..."

    The NPR article you link to is titled China Killed 1 Million US Jobs, But Don't Blame Trade Deals.  It's a good piece that takes a much broader view of our trade history with China (as well as trade in general) - and why it's "worth noting that China isn't even part of the TPP deal. The TPP is actually seen as an attempt to limit China's power and influence in trade."  Followed by, "so Trump's criticism there is "just off-the-scales wrong," says David Autor, a labor economist at MIT."

    If you're going to use a link to back up your argument, it's likely best to make sure it actually does rather than cherry pick a few provocative words.

    Barefooted . . .

    Thank you.


    Trump is calling for us to rewrite the rules under which we engage in trade with China and to withdraw from the TPP.  He is right on both counts.

    Oh, I have a good idea about how that's going to play out.

    The "great, great wall" was a reference (in Trump's own words) to the physical wall he promised to build on the border of Mexico, not to trade protectionism. In addition to Trump's xenophobia, I also used it metaphorically to represent other elements of his isolationism--diplomatic, military, and trade--but I wasn't arguing for any specific policy positions.

    I mentioned China to illustrate the contrast between an optimistic nation that is boldly asserting itself and engaging the modern world and a fearful nation that yearns for the past and seeks to withdraw from global affairs.

    And it's silly to think we could make our way in the post-Soviet 90's without addressing the poverty of 1.3 billion Chinese with nukes and a 5 million man army - seems to me the outcome has been quite positive - the US has done quite well and most of its problems are internal (did we really have to waste a trillion dollars on Mideast wars? how does that compare with our China trade deficit?), while China is by and large a cooperative member of the global community.

    Trump's call for a wall between the US and Mexico is ineffably wrong.  It is also cruel.  We agree that it represents an attempt to isolate us from a greatly exaggerated problem.  By startling contrast, Trump is correct, even arguably bold, to call for a change our economic relationship with the Asian superpower.  I say he is correct because, as noted above, trade with China has been extremely harmful to us and how it has fueled the totalitarian state's rise from a regional player to a worldwide threat,   I say the policy change is arguably bold because very powerful people are profiting from cheap Chinese labor despite the fact that American workers are net losers.

    Hal, as I already stated, this post is not about trade policy. So rather than hijack the thread to discuss your preferred issue, please write your own post. 

    Some folks won't take a hint . . .


    I apologize Mike.  I was not trying to hijack your blog.  I understood your argument to be that Trump is a weak man who, unlike T.R., is afraid to engage in world affairs.  You supported this thesis, as I understood, by noting that he wants to build a literal wall between us and Mexico to keep Latin Americans out and a figurative wall between us and China to keep Chinese goods out.  The reason that I inferred you were including Trump's proposed trade policy in your criticism is because you juxtaposed China with the literal wall in this passage:  "How ironic that in the 21st century, China has reinvented itself as an aggressive, globally engaged superpower while the future president of the United States promises to make America “great again” by retreating into safety behind “'a great, great wall.'”

    To the extent you were, as you say you were, criticizing Trump for "isolationism" in "trade", I believe my commentary remains on point.


    You won't quit. China is known for its Great Wall and its closed isolation since inauspicious events of 1421. But in the last 25 years, China has become a much more global player in all areas, not just offshoring (which is more inbound in cause anyway). The US, on the other hand, is expressing more and more a fear of the world, the "other", whether Mexican or Muslim, and that's what Trump's wall is about, immigration and perceived security, period.

    I'm sure I could fit a global warming or drugs or energy message in there, but Michael's intent was and is rather clear.

    I understand why you made the inference, but I was disappointed to see the comment thread turn into a debate about trade policy, which was tangential to the main theme of personal and national character. To steer the discussion back to the topic, I explicitly disavowed taking any trade policy position. But you kept pushing the China trade point, and that's when I chided you for thread hijacking.

    It's not that I don't want a discussion about trade. It's a worthy topic, and I was sincere when I encouraged you write your post own about it. But it's not the topic of this post.

    FTR, Roosevelt and the other progressives wanted to reduce tariffs because they regarded them as hidden taxes on the poor and corrupt giveaways to big corporations, but hardly anyone in those days supported free trade. So when TR rejected isolationism, he did not mean that the U.S. should drop all trade barriers.

    Theodore hunting bear when Arizona sunk? Not great! Historians not helping transition. Sad! @realdonaldtrump

    Lyin' Ted says he's "anti-trust." Trust is what makes America Great. Must be smarter!

    Teddy sees open borders all the way to Tierra del Fuego. Jobs to Cuba? No way, build that wall.


    I knew Teddy Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt was a friend of mine. Businessman - you're no Teddy Roosevelt.

    Businessman stares off into the distance looking like a deer in the headlights  for his twitter machine.

    Wolraich... Excellent!

    See over here...

    Thank you.


    Thanks a lot for sharing it, OGD

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