Politics & Policy

What’s the Story behind Trump’s Boeing Tweet?

By now you’ve heard about Donald Trump tweet about Boeing:

I was at Fox at the time to do America’s Newsroom. The show called an audible and changed the topic to this, which is fine. My only problem is I wasn’t really sure what to make of the tweet. It came out of nowhere, and from what I could tell in the three minutes I had to look at the news stories about it, the $4 billion figure seemed too high and left out some other facts. The projection is for two Air Force One planes, the current contract with Boeing is “only” $170 million to work up the plans for the interior of the aircraft, etc. So my take was that, this could be about keeping people off balance but I just didn’t know.

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My friend and Fox Business host, Melissa Francis, shared none of my doubts and said I missed the real deal entirely. “I love this!” she declared. And went on to make an impassioned case that this was a brilliant move that only a CEO could make. Trump was “setting the tone from the top” and making it clear that he would no longer tolerate government waste, bill padding from contractors, and the like.

I have no desire to get into a spat with Melissa Francis, whom I like and admire. But I spent much of the rest of the day hearing from Trump fans on Twitter and in e-mail insisting that Francis was entirely right and I was crazy for doubting Trump’s “brilliance.”

Well, it turns out that Trump’s fact-deficient attack on Boeing came about very shortly after the Chicago Tribune reported that the CEO of Boeing had criticized Trump’s positions on trade.

Now this could be a coincidence. But this wouldn’t be the first time Trump hied to Twitter to shout something seemingly random based upon something he saw in the media. His recent tweet about revoking the citizenship of flag-burners, for instance, was almost surely inspired by something he saw on TV minutes earlier. And this certainly wouldn’t be the first time he tried to intimidate or shame a critic by using his Twitter account. That’s vintage Trump.

Moreover there is no other objective reason why Trump would single out Boeing like that yesterday morning — at least that I am aware of.

I want to make two points here and neither of them is to say, “Ha ha I’m right and Francis (or my Twitter critics) are wrong.” That’s because Francis may still be right, a possibility I conceded more than once on air. Her take is definitely the spin the Trump team prefers — but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

If I had to guess, I would say that Francis is right that Trump wants to set a tone, but not quite the tone she has in mind. The Boeing/Air Force One contract isn’t very good or very likely fodder for the message Francis wants Trump to be sending. But it is an excellent excuse to send the more likely message Trump wants to send to corporate America: If you criticize Donald Trump, you’re going to pay a price.

But hey, maybe not. Maybe my skepticism here is unwarranted, and Francis nailed the heart of the matter instantly while I didn’t. And that brings me to my second point.

My real problem is with all the people who seem to think that any skepticism of Trump’s actions on my part can only be explained by anti-Trump bias or bitterness. These people seem to think that the most positive, most pro-Trump spin on any new event is not only always correct but obviously so, and any skepticism about the genius of his actions is a sign of illegitimate bias.

And that’s crazy.

I’ve praised Trump and I’ve criticized Trump since he was elected. Yes, I’m skeptical, but all politicians deserve skepticism, and Donald Trump more than most. And yet every day I hear from people saying that’s not good enough. “Get on board the Trump Train!” people are still shouting at me. One must bend every position and principle to his. One must acknowledge that he is smarter than everyone. He has a plan. He’s playing chess to everyone else’s checkers. And if you don’t see that, you’re irrationally biased against him.

It’s pretty obvious to me that the irrational bias here runs the other way. If I say Trump is sometimes right and sometimes wrong and you say “Shut up! He’s a genius in everything!” an objective observer would probably think you’re the biased one.

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