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Economist Larry Kudlow Is Trump's Pick For Top Economic Adviser

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Larry Kudlow is a TV guy. He's an on-air contributor to CNBC. He has informally advised President Trump on economic issues for a while as well. And now it is official. Kudlow has been named White House senior economic adviser. He's replacing Gary Cohn, who stepped down last week after the president's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. Cohn opposed those tariffs but so does Larry Kudlow. So why does he want this job, and what will he bring? Well, let's ask someone who knows him well. It's the Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore, who has also advised the president and is also not the biggest fan of the president's new tariffs. Stephen Moore, welcome back to the program.

STEPHEN MOORE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So a few things we know about Kudlow. He has been on television. He has served in government. He was in the Reagan administration, though he doesn't have a degree in economics. He used to be a Democrat. Is that right? I mean, tell me why he's the right person for this job. What's he bring?

MOORE: Well, Larry is - I mean, for conservatives, it's almost like we got, you know, the NBA version of LeBron James here. I mean, Larry is an incredible...

GREENE: Wow, that's a big statement.

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: Well, he's a great communicator. He's - you know, as you mentioned, he had a economic financial TV show on CNBC for 10 or 15 years. But in addition to that, he had a big impact in helping pass Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut. More importantly, he played a really big, central role on the tax cut that just passed. I don't think it would have happened without Larry Kudlow. He and I worked together side by side in putting the plan together for Donald Trump during the campaign. And then Larry played a very big role in getting it over the goal line this past December. So Larry is beloved by conservatives.

GREENE: As much as he and the president agree on tax policy, though, they seem to be that far apart on trade policy and tariffs. So how is this relationship going to work, especially right now when tariffs are so central to what the president is doing?

MOORE: So first of all, I wish I had a dime for every time I'd been asked this question over the last 24 hours because, you know, first of all, let me put it very simply. I mean, Donald Trump and Larry Kudlow on economics probably agree 90 to 95 percent of the time. And that's a pretty high percentage. Now, is it true that Larry is much more of a free trade guy than Donald Trump? Absolutely it is, and there will be disagreement on that. And remember, David, a week or two ago, Donald Trump said I like to have different views expressed at the table, and that's a good thing. That's a healthy thing for a president. You don't want a bunch of yes men. Larry will make his case about the virtues of free trade. I talked to Larry yesterday. He is very much in favor of getting very tough, David, with China. And I think that's where the tariff and trade debate is going.

GREENE: Even if it means stringent new tariffs on China because the president is - I mean, it sounds like - I mean, there are...

MOORE: That's right.

GREENE: ...Reports that the president might impose new tariffs. You're saying Kudlow would be behind that even though he's all about free trade.

MOORE: Well, I think what Larry would say - I can't speak for him, but I think what he would say is that China is a bad actor. You know, David, a report came out about a week or two ago that finds that China is stealing about $500 billion of our patents and copyrights and technology, computer software, music. So many of the things that we produce, China just steals them from us. Now, I would make the case, David - I think Larry Kudlow would too - that when you have a country stealing from you, that's not free trade, right? And I don't personally have a problem, and I don't think Larry Kudlow would, of slapping China with a very stiff tariff unless they start playing by the rules. And they're simply not right now.

GREENE: Can I ask you about the relationship inside a White House? I mean, Kudlow very prominently criticized Donald Trump, even though, I mean, he endorsed him in the campaign. He was so angry over the "Access Hollywood" tape when it emerged with the president caught bragging about kissing and grabbing women. I mean, once you do something like that, how does a relationship then deepen and develop when it's an important one like this inside a White House?

MOORE: I think everybody was angry over that tape, David. And so I think Larry's reaction wasn't much different from most Americans. But I've been around Larry Kudlow and Donald Trump, you know, for the last couple of years, and they have a really close relationship. They like each other a lot. Sometimes they do spar like brothers (laughter) you know, over some issues. But I think - what Larry is going to do, David, I think his primary function for Donald Trump is really sell the economic message.

I was just listening to your report about that Pennsylvania race. And here we have this tax cut which has been, you know, if you look at it objectively, a phenomenal success. I mean, we have had five million Americans who've gotten bonuses and pay raises. We've seen huge amounts of, you know, investment in the United States. Larry Kudlow is going to have to go out there for Donald Trump and help sell that success to the American people. And he's good. He's a great communicator.

GREENE: OK. Economist Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation talking to us about President Trump's new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. Thanks so much, Stephen Moore.

MOORE: Thanks, have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.