Thursday, November 9, 2017

Is that rude?

Image via Buddy "L" Trucks.

So some of us thought it was hilarious when Trump, in Japan, asked Japanese car makers to start manufacturing cars in the United States, when in fact they build 4 million vehicles a year in the US, in comparison to the 1.5 million they export here (in 1986 it was 3.5 million)—"Is that possible to ask? That's not rude. Is that rude?"—and some didn't think it was hilarious at all, like this Aaron Blake bloke writing for the Washington Post:

Sadly, no. Blake's mistake is failing to distinguish what Trump knows from what he reads aloud. If you seriously put it in context and read the whole thing closely, you can see that it's it's not at all clear what he knows, or whether he "knows" anything as all. His remarks aren't a coherent text, logically connected, but an intertextual dialogue, between the script he's working from and his improvised interpolations, and while the script certainly "knows" about Japanese auto plants in the US, there's no evidence at all that Trump does, even as he's reading it.

His task is to thank the Toyota and Mazda representatives for commitment to build a new factory, but he hasn't read the material in advance, and he gets bored by the complexity of the sentence they've given him—"the business leaders in the room whose confidence in the United States"—whose confidence does what? Somewhere down the paragraph he's looking at is "creating jobs", and he fixes on that for a moment, and "build cars", which reminds him of one of those applause lines he's been using for 30 years about the trade imbalance, as in November 2015:
TRUMP: Hey, Chris, I was in Los Angeles. And I saw ships coming in from Japan -- the biggest ships I've ever seen, loaded up with cars, OK? Thousands of cars. They're pouring off the ships.
CUOMO: Because they're cheaper.
TRUMP: Wait a minute. They're pouring off the ships.
You know, we send them? Beef. And they don't want it because they say, "We don't want it." And we send them wheat, they don't want it. 
And you know, what the imbalance is between these over the years millions of cars and the little stuff we send them? It's massive. We've got to equalize it.
And then "several Japanese automobile firms" in the script ( which he thinks are also "doing a job") get mixed up in his rhetorical repertoire with his frequent complaint about Apple, that they ought to be manufacturing iPhones in the US ("We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries"), and he launches into that plea. "Is that rude? I don't think so. If you could build them."

After which he realizes that he's gotten completely untethered and looks back at his script, with the comforting "Toyota" and "Mazda" and "$1.6 billion" and "4,000 jobs" and calmly reads the thing he was supposed to be reading in the first place, without evidently realizing he's just contradicted himself.

He clearly doesn't know that Japanese car imports in the US have radically decreased since 1986, so there's no reason to think he'd know what the reason for that is. What his mouth is saying fits in a different region of his belief system, the one where he makes great deals, and has no input at all from, or impact on, the "they're killing us on trade" sector, which just carries on undisturbed.

Cars pouring off ships. Via.

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