From the inner circle of the White House to the outer edges of the Pacific Northwest, President Trump has a reputation for being predictably unpredictable.
Nobody knows which Trump will show up on a given day: the man who goes to bed tweeting anti-immigrant vitriol, or the one who awakes claiming to “love the Dreamers.” Today will we see the isolationist who wants all troops out of Syria, or the interventionist who demands firm action after a gas attack?
Such is the fate of a country that elected a human fidget spinner.
One certainty about Trump is that he’s out of touch with, if not outright hostile to, many key issues and institutions in Washington, a deep-blue state he hasn’t visited since the 2016 campaign. He spouted election-year bunk about Boeing jobs going overseas, launches occasional Twitter rants against Amazon and routinely undermines our diverse population and progressive values.
Now the interests of all 39 Washington counties are threatened by trade war rumblings stirred up by Trump. His escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs with Chinese President Xi Jinping could convulse the U.S.’s most trade-dependent state, from the aircraft factories of Puget Sound to the fruit orchards of Central Washington to the freight terminals at the Port of Tacoma.
Amid the anxiety, however, the president made two overtures last week that just might be good for Washington.
First, Trump indicated he would endorse legislation protecting the marijuana industry in states that have legalized it, despite the hard line that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has drawn against the federally prohibited drug.
Second, Trump told top officials to explore rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite his rejection of the 12-nation trade pact in a fit of protectionist pique days after he took office.
We congratulate him for coming around.
Of course, Washingtonians know better than to assume Trump was acting from a place of deep conviction and that he won’t reverse himself in typical mercurial fashion.
“I am cautiously optimistic that the president appears to have heard the will of the people on this issue,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement about Trump’s marijuana redirection last week. “But this president has demonstrated a willingness to go back on his word.”
On marijuana policy, Trump is suddenly trumpeting states rights but is motivated largely by political gain. He made a deal with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican who has blocked the president’s Justice Department nominees over concerns about a federal pot crackdown.
That Trump would step on Sessions’ hard line also comes as no surprise; walking all over the attorney general is nothing new for this president.
Congress should take this opportunity to finally move legislation preventing federal interference in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana — or both, as Washington has.
Meanwhile, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump is mushy about what he wants, tweeting only that it would have to be “substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama.”
Rejoining the TPP, which also requires congressional support, would be a sensible move. It would add stability to Washington’s trade economy, though it can’t replace the ties that bind us to China. A report last week from the Brookings Institution found that nearly 5 percent of the state’s labor force is employed in industries projected to be hurt by retaliatory Chinese tariffs. No other state comes close.
What’s needed from the White House is a holistic trade policy rather than a series of bilateral deals, which Trump boasts he’s skilled at forging but are susceptible to his whims, temper and global reputation for instability.
The presidential fidget spinner keeps going round and round, with dizzying effect. But Washington state officials should seize on these recent openings as a chance to pin down the administration on marijuana and trade, two big forces in our economy.