Peter Navarro: My journey to Trumpland
As a senior policy adviser to Donald Trump, I get more questions about whether I’m offended by the latest remarks of the candidate than I receive about the economy, trade or national security. I’m also asked how someone who would fit right in anywhere in San Francisco or Silicon Valley — registered Democrat, University of California professor, Harvard Ph.D., gay rights supporter, strong environmentalist — can possibly be supporting Trump?
My journey to Trumpland began at the UC Irvine business school. Around 2004, I began to notice many of my MBA students, who were enrolled in our night and weekend programs for the “fully employed,” were losing their jobs. I wanted to know why, and all roads quickly pointed to China.
In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization and immediately began flooding American markets with its exports. Many of America’s multinational corporations — including those in Orange County — also began moving facilities to China.
While my research confirmed cheap labor was a factor driving the Made-in-China boom, I also uncovered the widespread use of sweatshops and pollution havens — neither of which are banned by WTO rules. I also discovered China’s real competitive edge was driven by a set of unfair trade practices — from illegal exports subsidies and currency manipulation to intellectual property theft.
My world would intersect with Trump after I wrote my first book on China, “The Coming China Wars.” Trump put this treatise on China’s cheating on his Top 10 list.
I began a correspondence with him, and he was kind enough to provide testimonials for my follow-up book and film, “Death by China,” and my most recent book about the rise of China’s military, “Crouching Tiger.” From these interactions, I learned Trump clearly gets it on the trade issue.
To Trump, while free trade is good, it must also be fair trade. Otherwise, we will get what we have gotten — a massive erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base, stagnant wages for the last 15 years, and more than 20 million Americans who can’t find a good job at a decent wage.
What offends me here is not that Trump wants to renegotiate bad trade deals such as NAFTA or that Trump wants to slap a 45 percent tariff on China if it refuses to stop its widespread and pervasive cheating. These are exactly the right policies.
What offends me is that Hillary and Bill Clinton have had their hands in every bad trade deal the United States has signed. In 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton was an “ardent advocate” for the North American Free Trade Agreement and President Bill Clinton signed it, promising us 200,000 jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, we’ve lost more than 850,000 jobs.
In 2000, lame-duck President Clinton and a Republican Congress worked hand-in-glove to grant China permanent normal trade relations status. This paved the way for China’s 2001 entry into the WTO — arguable the most destructive trade event in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, in 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised us 70,000 new jobs for her South Korea trade pact and to date, we’ve lost 75,000 jobs and seen our trade deficit with South Korea double — with our auto industry the hardest hit.
Beyond trade, I share Trump’s foreign policy antipathy toward using our military to bring about “regime change” or to “nation build.” What offends me here is President George W. Bush invading Iraq under false pretenses — and the resultant loss in both blood and treasure. Trump opposed that war, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton voted for it.
What offends me, too, is when Secretary of State Clinton expends more than $5 billion of taxpayer money to topple Moammar Khadafy in Libya and winds up turning the country over to the Islamic State in the resultant power vacuum — or when President Obama draws a red line in Syria over the use of chemical weapons and then does nothing when such weapons are used. Because of such inept foreign-policy decisions, I was certainly not offended when Trump referred to Clinton and Obama as the founders of the Islamic State. True that — at least in a figurative sense.
Of course, you might wonder whether I’m offended by Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration. I would if U.S. State Department vetting procedures could prevent Islamic extremists from slipping into our country disguised as refugees. But that’s clearly not the case.
Trump speaks in a language that talks directly to the American people — crude though it may be to some. The far greater offense lies in Hillary Clinton’s constant short-circuiting of the truth and her monumental ethical lapses.
She has lied about her destruction of thousands of emails, lied to the families of the diplomats killed in Benghazi, mistreated Monica Lewinsky and other of Bill Clinton’s “fallen women,” and tried to scapegoat former Secretary of State Colin Powell for her own mishandling of classified information.
She has also racked up obscene speaking fees that she failed to properly disclose, and, according to Judicial Watch and others, appears to have used the State Department as a favor dispenser to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign governments and corporate interests for her campaigns and the Clinton Foundation. That’s exactly why a special prosecutor is now warranted.
For all these reasons, I’m a Trump Democrat — abandoned by my party on trade and national security and appalled at the prospect that someone as corrupt and untrustworthy as Hillary Clinton might ascend to the Oval Office. In the end, the voters will decide; and the only thing certain I will continue to be offended by is every time your Giants beat my Dodgers.
Political scientist Ian Bremmer (left) appears on CNN with Peter Navarro, Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser, at the Republican National Convention.