Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) failed presidential 2016 campaign was largely forgettable -- he quit a couple of days after a fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses -- but it featured one shining moment.
It came during a November 2015 debate, when Donald Trump was asked why he was so opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he responded by rambling for a long while about China and currency manipulation. Eventually, Rand Paul interjected, "You know, we might want to point out China is not part of this deal" -- a detail Trump seemed completely unaware of.
It was the first real indication that Trump hated the TPP, despite not knowing what it was.
Nevertheless, after becoming president, the Republican formally ended the U.S. role in the partnership, prompting our former partners to move on without us. (In January 2017, Trump assured Americans he'd replace the TPP with a "beautiful" alternative. Fifteen months later, we've seen no such policy.)
Recently, however, the White House opened the door, at least a crack. In February, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the president would "consider" re-engaging with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Last week, to the delight of rural-state senators, Trump went much further, instructing White House officials to examine rejoining the TPP that he'd already abandoned.
And why didn't I write about this at the time? Because I had a hunch this was going to happen.
After publicly flirting last week with having the United States rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Trump appeared to rebuff the idea once and for all late Tuesday.
In a Twitter post at 10:49 p.m., Mr. Trump said that although Japan and South Korea would like the United States to join the 11 other nations in the multilateral trade agreement, he had no intention of doing so. The decision put an apparent end to a meandering trade policy in which Mr. Trump pulled out of the deal in his first week in office, before suggesting last week that he was having second thoughts.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also downplayed the possibility, calling the idea of the United States rejoining the TPP more of a "thought than a policy."
The trouble is, that same phrase could be applied to practically every aspect of the White House agenda: Trump and his team are filled with thoughts, but they have few actual policies.