Inn this June 6, 2018, photo, Senior White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh

How dissent is addressed in the Trump White House

Updated

When it comes to the White House’s trade policy, it’s sometimes difficult to know whom to listen to. Donald Trump, for example, has repeatedly insisted that his tariffs have forced China to pay billions of dollars to the United States, while boosting domestic economic growth.

Larry Kudlow, the top voice on economic policy in Trump’s White House, acknowledged during a nationally televised interview on Sunday that the president’s claims are wrong.

I was curious whether this would be the source of some friction between the two Republicans, and according to a Washington Post report, Kudlow’s comments did not go unnoticed by his boss.

Trump was irritated on Sunday after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow acknowledged on “Fox News Sunday” that American consumers end up paying for the administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports, contradicting Trump’s claim that the Chinese foot the bill, officials said.

“Trump called Larry, and they had it out,” according to one White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

In fairness, it’s worth emphasizing that there’s no official account of the conversation, and the Post spoke to others who claimed the post-interview conversation between Trump and Kudlow was far less contentious.

But if the White House official who said the two “had it out” was correct, it’s emblematic of a larger problem.

In this case, we know Kudlow was right and Trump was wrong. Kudlow was certainly diplomatic when acknowledging reality on “Fox News Sunday” – the alternative likely would’ve ended his White House tenure – but he left little doubt that the president’s arguments on trade are demonstrably untrue.

And that, according to one source, left Trump unhappy – not because Kudlow was wrong, but because he told the truth in a way that cast the president in an unflattering light.

The model Trump seems to prefer is a dynamic in which his team not only accepts his falsehoods as facts but is also willing to peddle his fictions to the public without regard for their accuracy.

It’s too important an issue for deliberations driven entirely by the president’s ego, confusion, and delicate sensibilities, but by some accounts, this is nevertheless where we find ourselves.