On Monday morning, Donald Trump called into CNBC and delivered a sweeping rant on everything from Mexico to China to the Fed to tech regulation to missiles to French wine.
Joe Kernen (who is unabashedly friendly with the president) couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
At one point, the “discussion” (assuming you can call something as one-sided as this was a “discussion”) turned to China’s FX policy and also to the Fed. When he managed to squeeze a question in between Trump’s breathless ramblings, Kernen seemed to be leading the president – angling to elicit the most controversial responses from a man who was clearly riffing off-the-cuff with no regard for decorum, facts or even reality.
After saying China “absolutely” manipulates their currency, Trump proceeded to lambast Jerome Powell’s Fed.
Bloomberg initially quoted Trump as calling the central bank “disruptive.” What he actually said was “destructive” – in this context, there is a big difference between the two adjectives. Here’s the clip:
As you can see, Kernen (grinning) asks if the Fed has finally “listened” to Trump when it comes to rate cuts, or whether they’ve “arrived at the decision themselves.” Trump took the bait. “No, they haven’t listened to me”, he said. As well they shouldn’t, given that the Fed is supposed to be independent.
“It’s not just Jay Powell”, Trump continued. “We have people on the Fed – they’re not my people”.
Trump’s efforts to install “my people” fell flat this year when it became clear that Stephen Moore and Herman Cain were a bridge too far even for obsequious Republicans on the Hill.
Trump went on to perpetuate the idea that Powell is intentionally handicapping the US in the trade war. The Fed, Trump insisted, isn’t giving him a “level table”. Last month, in a tweet, Trump explicitly said the Fed should “match” the PBoC, an overt call for competitive easing.
Finally, Trump reminded everyone how things work in China, an autocratic regime. “Don’t forget that in China, the head of the Fed is President Xi”, Trump said. “He can do whatever he wants.”
Of course, there is no “Fed” in China. Trump is referencing the PBoC, and he’s obviously correct to suggest that Xi holds sway over all aspects of policymaking in the country. Lost on Trump, though, was the irony inherent in calling up a pro-business television network and expressing admiration (indeed, envy) for the political system of a communist state run by an authoritarian.
Kernen didn’t raise that issue with Trump. And nobody at the network bothered to ask the only question that matters: Is Trump suggesting the Fed should be beholden to the executive?