Turns Out Things Sometimes Do Matter in the Trump Era

Today’s Agenda

Turns Out Things Sometimes Do Matter in the Trump Era

LOL, Things Matter

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- “LOL Nothing Matters” is the quintessential meme of the President Donald Trump era. His ceaseless hailstorm of scandal would have destroyed lesser politicians long ago, but Trump has overcome it to win the presidency, bring the GOP to heel and build a base of support that will apparently never reject him.

But if nothing matters, then how do you square that with Trump’s persistent unpopularity and his party’s likely poor showing in the midterm elections, despite a strong economy? Jonathan Bernstein suggests this is evidence the scandalstorm is, in fact, having an effect on Trump – things matter, in other words.

Trump’s colossal self-confidence may have something to do with his air of invincibility. He is never, ever wrong and never, ever worried – certainly not about Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, about which he tweets on a daily basis, just the sort of thing a very, very not-worried person does, Tim O’Brien points out, in a column that should come with a flashing “sarcasm alert” that scrolls down the page with you as you read it. 

Tim’s column focuses on Team Trump’s ever-shifting story about his son and top campaign officials meeting with Russian agents in 2016. What should worry Trump about that meeting is that it could be an example of either the sort of “high crimes and misdemeanors” mentioned in the Constitution’s impeachment clause or actual crime-type crime, writes Cass Sunstein

The fact that Trump has finally been forced to admit the reality of that meeting is “a victory for truth and for democratic institutions,” writes Francis Wilkinson – a sign that maybe Trump’s lies haven’t yet trapped us in a post-truth era. To put it another way: The truth still matters. LOL?

Protect the Midterms

Even Trump, however reluctantly, has acknowledged Russian agents interfered in the 2016 election. And they’re hard at work meddling with the 2018 midterms, too, as many members of his administration and party have warned. Bloomberg’s editors say the system may be safer in some ways than it was in 2016 – but weaknesses still abound: “[T]he nuts and bolts of the electoral machinery remain vulnerable. Americans vote at some 100,000 polling places, spread out across more than 8,000 voting districts. Each state oversees elections in its own way, and each piece of the system – registration rolls, back-office computers, even voting machines – is a potential target for hackers.” Click here to read the whole thing.

Bonus editorial: 

Bonus midterm reading:

Trump Hasn’t Erased Obama’s Legacy Just Yet

Near-daily headlines about the Trump administration attacking Obama-era regulations create the impression that soon only crumbs will remain of Barack Obama’s legacy. Cass Sunstein, who worked for Obama, argues there’s more continuity between presidencies than most people can see. Even some of Trump’s most direct assaults on Obama regulations could be challenged and watered down eventually. 

One of Trump’s headline regulatory moves is the “SAFE Vehicles Rule,” an EPA proposal to weaken fuel-efficiency standards starting in 2021. Cass flags this as one change that could face “a host of objections,” including from parts of the auto industry it’s supposed to help. And good thing, too: Liam Denning warns the change would leave the U.S. economy more vulnerable to oil-price swings and climate change. 

Free Trade Is a Myth

Trump says his trade wars are meant to bring about totally free trade, with “no tariffs, no barriers.” A. Gary Shilling argues such an outcome is impossible, given the vast differences between the world’s economies. It may not even be desirable: “Political revolutions would be more frequent and international relations strained as the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker.” Click here to read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Trump’s trade war continues to claim friendly-fire victims. Liam Denning points out China’s new, retaliatory tariffs on U.S. natural gas hit U.S. oil producers at precisely the wrong moment, when they already have too much gas built up at home and desperately need to export it, and notice how I am avoiding making an obvious gas-release joke here, but please don’t call me a hero.

Chart Attack

Indra Nooyi stepping down as CEO of PepsiCo Inc. will leave just 23 women in the top jobs at S&P 500 companies, writes Andrea Felsted:

Turns Out Things Sometimes Do Matter in the Trump Era

Welcome to Adjusted Earnings Land, where all the companies are above average. It’s getting out of hand, writes Stephen Gandel.

Turns Out Things Sometimes Do Matter in the Trump Era

It’s hard to see how Jamie Dimon’s semi-prediction of a 5 percent 10-year Treasury yield comes true, writes Brian Chappatta.

Turns Out Things Sometimes Do Matter in the Trump Era

Speed Reading

Post-crisis bank regulations may have turbocharged inequality. – Joe Nocera 

If it wants better performance, Japan Inc. needs to start paying executives better. – Anjani Trivedi 

Here’s an idea on how to fight deflation in Japan: Abolish cash. – Andy Mukherjee 

How Russia has wormed its way into Africa. – Leonid Bershidsky 

Saudi Arabia is stockpiling oil again after draining reserves for three years, helping it replace Iran’s lost supply. – Julian Lee

What’s happening in China could be a worrying preview for the U.S. grocery sector. – Andrea Felsted 

If you buy cryptocurrency in a self-advertised pump-and-dump scheme, then you deserve to lose your money. – Matt Levine

We need to learn to be OK with being wrong. – Stephen Carter 

Sports can make you miserable. It’s just science. – Justin Fox

ICYMI

Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube  booted Alex Jones. Gary Cohn is doing just great, thanks for asking. 

Kickers

Women are more likely to survive heart attacks if their doctors are women.

A New Mexico couple may or may not have stolen a de Kooning painting now worth $160 million … just to hang it in their bedroom. (h/t Matt Levine’s newsletter)

It’s like Uber, but for Amish horse-and-buggy rides. (h/t Scott Kominers)

Every Tom Cruise performance, ranked.

Eight new books to read this month.

Note: Please send paintings, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

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