MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — The Wall Street Journal, one of the news organizations that moderated the fourth GOP presidential debate here, is misstating frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump’s position on Obamatrade.
“Start with trade, which showcased Donald Trump. ‘I love trade. I’m a free trader, 100%,’ said the businessman, after declaring that he opposed the only free-trade deal currently on offer, the U.S. agreement with 11 other Pacific nations,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote in an editorial examining GOP “fault lines” post-debate.
That characterization by the editorial board is accurate, but what came next isn’t.
“Mr. Trump called it a ‘terrible deal,’ though it wasn’t obvious that he has any idea what’s in it,” the editorial board wrote.
His one specific criticism was its failure to deal with Chinese currency manipulation. But it took Rand Paul to point out that China isn’t part of the deal and would be happy if the agreement collapsed so the U.S. would have less economic influence in Asia. Mr. Trump said on these pages Tuesday that he would label China a currency manipulator on his first day as President, triggering tariffs on thousands of Chinese goods. The businessman thinks economic mercantilism is a political winner, but we doubt that starting a trade war that raises prices for Americans would turn out to be popular. Many of Mr. Trump’s supporters care more about his take-charge attitude than his policies, but GOP voters will have to decide if they want to nominate their most protectionist nominee since Hoover.
Here’s the problem with what the WSJ—whose editor-in-chief Gerard Baker served alongside the Fox Business Channel’s Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo as a debate co-moderator—wrote about Trump’s criticisms: He never suggested China was a part of the deal.
Trump’s argument is that China would benefit from the U.S. deal with 11 other nations—Brunei, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Singapore and Peru—because of the lack of currency manipulation enforcement in the deal. Part of the inaccuracy by the Journal stems from an assertion that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—who otherwise had a good debate performance on Tuesday—made at the end of that exchange.
To make matters worse, the Journal didn’t even quote in its editorial what Trump actually said during the debate—which is 100 percent consistent with what he has said in a recent policy paper released before the debate and in several interviews with Breitbart News and others in recent weeks—about China as it relates to the TPP.
Here’s a full transcript of that portion of the debate — which ironically enough, even pro-Obamatrade pollster Frank Luntz noted earned Trump the highest ratings on trade, hitting 94 with his focus group when it came up — which shows that what Trump said was entirely accurate:
BAKER: …Mr. Trump, can I ask you about…
BAKER: …the U.S. just concluded an international trade agreement with 11 countries in the Pacific. You’ve said that you’d rather have no deal…
BAKER: …than sign the one that’s on the table…
TRUMP: …It’s a horrible deal…
BAKER: …Most economists — most economists say that trade is boosted growth, and every single post war president has supported the expansion of international trade, including the last three republican presidents. Why would you reverse more than 50 years of U.S. trade policy?
TRUMP: The TPP is horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble. It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone. It’s 5,600 pages long, so complex that nobody’s read it. It’s like Obamacare; nobody ever read it. They passed it; nobody read it. And look at mess we have right now. And it will be repealed.
But this is one of the worst trade deals. And I would, yes, rather not have it. With all of these countries, and all of the bad ones getting advantage and taking advantage of what the good ones would normally get, I’d rather make individual deals with individual countries. We will do much better.
We lose a fortune on trade. The United States loses with everybody. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan. By the way, Mexico, $50 billion a year imbalance.
So I must say, Gerard, I just think it’s a terrible deal. I love trade. I’m a free trader, 100 percent. But we need smart people making the deals, and we don’t have smart people making the deals.
BAKER: The — the deal, as you say, the terms of the deal were published — were published just last week, the details, 5,000 pages of it, and 80 percent of U.S. trade with countries in the Pacific, these countries, these 11 countries, is actually tariff-free, and these — the trade deal only affects the other 20 percent. Which — are there particular parts of the deal that you think were badly negotiated?
TRUMP: Yes. Well, the currency manipulation they don’t discuss in the agreement, which is a disaster. If you look at the way China and India and almost everybody takes advantage of the United States — China in particular, because they’re so good. It’s the number-one abuser of this country. And if you look at the way they take advantage, it’s through currency manipulation. It’s not even discussed in the almost 6,000-page agreement. It’s not even discussed.
BAKER: There was a separate — separate…
TRUMP: And as you understand, I mean, you understand very well from the Wall Street Journal, currency manipulation is the single great weapon people have. They don’t even discuss it in this agreement.
So I say, it’s a very bad deal, should not be approved. If it is approved, it will just be more bad trade deals, more loss of jobs for our country. We are losing jobs like nobody’s ever lost jobs before. I want to bring jobs back into this country.
PAUL: Hey, Gerard, you know, we might want to point out China is not part of this deal.
It wasn’t just the Editorial Board of the WSJ that made this critical error in what’s an increasingly desperate bid by the D.C. establishment to derail Trump. Karl Rove, the former President George W. Bush campaign architect and top White House aide who’s become the face of the Washington GOP establishment, wrote his own oped in the Wall Street Journal repeating the inaccurate criticism against Trump. Like the Editorial Board of the WSJ, Rove didn’t include the full transcript—and severely misquoted Trump’s position.
“Mr. Trump’s worst moment came when he attacked the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying that Chinese currency manipulation is ‘not even discussed in the almost 6,000-page agreement,’” Rove wrote in an oped filled with criticisms of Trump. “Mr. Paul did the takedown: ‘We might want to point out, China is not part of this deal.’ Laughter from the crowd.”
Again, the whole criticism—started by Paul and perpetuated by the Wall Street Journal and Rove—is based on a fallacy. Trump never said the agreement includes China at this time. He said during the debate, as he has done numerous times throughout and leading up to this presidential campaign, that China benefits from the deal’s lack of enforcement when it comes to Chinese currency manipulation.
That argument has been made by many critics of the deal, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). In one of his “critical alerts” released before the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) fast track legislation—which greases the skids making it much easier to pass through Congress TPP and other deals regardless of their quality by eliminating the Senate filibuster and removing the ability to amend the deals—Sessions made this exact same point about China benefiting from the lack of U.S. seriousness when it comes to the Chinese government’s currency manipulation.
All that said, it’s perfectly possible very soon that China—and even Russia—could become part of the TPP. Sessions has warned of the “living agreement” inside it that allows more countries to be added, and recent Russian media reports suggested that Secretary of State John Kerry invited Russia and China into the deal.
A State Department official responded to those reports, telling Breitbart News that they aren’t true “at this time” but may become true—meaning China and Russia could join the deal—at a later date.
“As the Secretary made clear, we welcome other countries who would like to join as long as they meet the high standards of TPP, but there are no talks with other countries on joining the TPP at this time,” the State Department official said.
China has even, according to President Barack Obama himself in a June interview, “already started putting out feelers about the possibilities of them participating at some point.”
So, because of all the WSJ and Rove false statements, in a Tweet storm on Thursday, Trump ripped into both of them.
The WSJ editorial, he wrote in one Tweet, “is WRONG again. I know that China is not in the new T.P.P. trade deal but would come in latter through a back door.” In another, Trump called on the publication to “review my debate statement re China and T.P.P. and apologize. China not part but will get their way in later.”
Trump also noted that the WSJ Editorial Board is “so wrong, so often” and maybe should have watched the debate the paper’s editor-in-chief co-moderated. “They got info from an incorrect story in another pub. Why not watch and listen to debate,” Trump Tweeted.
He then wondered “when and how” the “dummies” at the WSJ Editorial Board would “apologize to me for their totally incorrect Editorial on me.”
“I want ‘smart’ trade deals,” Trump Tweeted.
Regarding Rove, Trump Tweeted asking why the WSJ would “let dummy” Rove “make the same mistake in the same edition of the paper?”
Rove, Trump Tweeted, “is a biased dope who wrote falsely about me re China and TPP. This moron wasted $430 million on political campaigns and lost 100%.”
He added that Rove is a “total fool” and “part of the Republican Establishment problem” because Rove is an “all talk, no action dummy.”