Shortly after Wilbur Ross regaled Maria Bartiromo with some of his monotone musings on trade, the CNBC “money honey”-turned shameless pusher of Ailes propaganda welcomed Larry Kudlow to the studio.
To her credit, Bartiromo preempted Kudlow’s spin efforts by pointing out that Ross was characteristically cautious on the prospects for the “Phase One” Sino-US trade pact.
“Wilbur Ross basically play[ed] down November at the APEC meeting – ‘Maybe we won’t sign it that day'”, she said, effectively asking Kudlow if he’s prepared to play good cop to Wilbur’s sleepy cop. Then, Maria got to the point: “Is China making demands saying ‘We’re not signing anything unless you take the December tariffs off the table’?”
“No, that’s actually not the case”, Larry said, haltingly, before making it clear he’s now having trouble keeping up with the evolution of this farce.
“The president did agree to suspend the uh — umm—” “The October tariffs”, Bartiromo interjected. “The October 15 tariffs”, Larry said, nodding his head emphatically, in what amounted to an expression of gratitude to Maria for helping him remember what the hell is actually going on.
“I wanna get my tariff dates right”, he added.
As a reminder, this is no small issue. Trump agreed not to hike tariffs to 30% (from 25%) on $250 billion in Chinese goods last week, but the market was frustrated that no decision was made on the 15% levies which will be applied to $160 billion of imports on December 15. That tranche is dominated by consumer goods.
Rumor has it Beijing wants those tariffs lifted as a precondition for moving ahead with talks.
Kudlow then launched into a belabored attempt to read the tea leaves, while simultaneously noting that in addition to being subject to the vagaries of Politburo wrangling, all of this is contingent on Donald Trump’s mood.
“My hunch is… if the talks go well on Phase One, there’s a chance we can get those December tariffs off”, Larry said. “I can’t guarantee it, it’s completely up to the president”.
Later, Kudlow said this: “I don’t know that my predictions are any better than anybody else’s”.
That may well be the first time Larry has told the truth in months.