Trump and the fine art of using the 'bully pulpit'

Donald Trump blasted General Motors, warning them that he would impose a huge "border tax" unless they moved some of their Mexican operations back to the United States.

Washington Times:

General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Trump has also called out other corporate giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin in recent weeks over the cost or projected cost of their products.

He said frequently during the campaign that he’d eye imposing tariffs if companies moved their operations outside of the United States and then tried to sell the products back to the U.S.

The Founders deliberately made the powers of the chief executive vague and ill defined.  This was largely because they knew that the first president would be George Washington, a man considered least likely to become a tyrant.

Washington's modest exercise of presidential power vindicated the Founders' faith in him.  But as presidents came and went, a large source of their power not even mentioned in the Constitution became a primary weapon: the bully pulpit.

Many presidents have failed to grasp the power of presidential jawboning.  Most of them were failed presidents.  Perhaps no president used the bully pulpit quite as effectively as Theodore Roosevelt, who jawboned Congress to rein in the trusts that were killing the economy.  In recent history, Ronald Reagan was a master of the bully pulpit, constantly going over the heads of Congress and the press to reach the American people directly, who then flooded Capitol Hill with phone calls, letters, and telegrams.

But recent presidents like Carter and Obama completely failed in their efforts to use the bully pulpit to their political advantage.  Both men preferred to lecture rather than cajole and thus failed to persuade.

Donald Trump's use of the bully pulpit to persuade General Motors and other corporations to build American is an interesting start.  The threat of imposing a "border tax" probably won't be enough to make GM bring some of their operations back to the U.S.  But it may be enough to prevent GM and other companies from moving other plants out of the country.

In that sense, it would be a huge win for President Trump if more jobs stayed in the U.S. as a result of his jawboning. 

Donald Trump blasted General Motors, warning them that he would impose a huge "border tax" unless they moved some of their Mexican operations back to the United States.

Washington Times:

General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Trump has also called out other corporate giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin in recent weeks over the cost or projected cost of their products.

He said frequently during the campaign that he’d eye imposing tariffs if companies moved their operations outside of the United States and then tried to sell the products back to the U.S.

The Founders deliberately made the powers of the chief executive vague and ill defined.  This was largely because they knew that the first president would be George Washington, a man considered least likely to become a tyrant.

Washington's modest exercise of presidential power vindicated the Founders' faith in him.  But as presidents came and went, a large source of their power not even mentioned in the Constitution became a primary weapon: the bully pulpit.

Many presidents have failed to grasp the power of presidential jawboning.  Most of them were failed presidents.  Perhaps no president used the bully pulpit quite as effectively as Theodore Roosevelt, who jawboned Congress to rein in the trusts that were killing the economy.  In recent history, Ronald Reagan was a master of the bully pulpit, constantly going over the heads of Congress and the press to reach the American people directly, who then flooded Capitol Hill with phone calls, letters, and telegrams.

But recent presidents like Carter and Obama completely failed in their efforts to use the bully pulpit to their political advantage.  Both men preferred to lecture rather than cajole and thus failed to persuade.

Donald Trump's use of the bully pulpit to persuade General Motors and other corporations to build American is an interesting start.  The threat of imposing a "border tax" probably won't be enough to make GM bring some of their operations back to the U.S.  But it may be enough to prevent GM and other companies from moving other plants out of the country.

In that sense, it would be a huge win for President Trump if more jobs stayed in the U.S. as a result of his jawboning. 

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