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Week In Politics: U.S. Allies React Swiftly To New U.S. Tariffs On Steel And Aluminum

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to turn in to some of the other big political stories of the week, and we're joined this Friday by David Brooks of The New York Times. Hey there, David.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Hello.

CORNISH: And Ana Kasparian, host of The Young Turks Network, welcome to the program.

ANA KASPARIAN: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Now, I want to quickly get your thoughts on the U.S.-North Korea summit being back on the calendar. David, Ana - I don't know who wants to start - wait-and-see approach?

BROOKS: We have seven more soap operas before they actually meet. So they'll be - it's, like, the worst relationship. But, you know, I'm glad he's doing it. Who knows? There could be a miracle. I just don't think the administration is doing the groundwork you need to lay to actually have peace. So it's - seems to me mostly theater.

CORNISH: Ana, for you?

KASPARIAN: Well, there's two weeks until this summit takes place, and two weeks during the Trump administration is a lifetime. But where we stand today is a good place. I think that taking a diplomatic approach is certainly much better than the initial approach that Trump took, which was to call him names on Twitter.

CORNISH: Another big story this week - the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. An exemption was not renewed for several U.S. allies. So you're looking at tariffs against Canada, Mexico and the European Union. I spoke with France's finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, yesterday. Here was his reaction.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BRUNO LE MAIRE: We strongly believe that the decision taken today by the American administration is really an unacceptable one. It is unjustified unjustifiable, and it will have dangerous consequences for global growth.

CORNISH: Now, couple this with the fact that the EU has plans to put a 25 percent tariff on about 200 American goods. How worried should the U.S. be, Ana?

KASPARIAN: I think the U.S. should be worried. I do believe that tariffs makes sense under the right circumstances. But my concern is that the Trump administration has not taken a sophisticated approach when it comes to these tariffs. We are essentially making enemies out of our allies, and I think that we're also underestimating how much this will negatively impact manufacturers here in the U.S. who rely on that aluminum and steel to make products here in our country. So I think that there will be some ramifications because of this trade war, and we're going to have to wait and see just how bad things will get.

CORNISH: David, the EU's already challenging this with the WTO. Do those kinds of international, like, organizations even matter anymore?

BROOKS: Yeah, they do. You know, I think trade tariffs almost never make sense because the other side gets to play, too. And they get to hurt our farmers just as we're going to hurt their steel people. And then it just ratchets up and ratchets up. What strikes me about Trump is he's only good at a certain kind of relationship. When you're dealing with your enemies, you probably want to confuse them and intimidate them, and that's what Trump does. But when you're dealing with your friends, you want to be reliable, predictable, trustworthy - reciprocity. Trump treats everybody like an enemy, and he's treating our friends like enemies. And they have a right to be upset because it's confusing. It's unpredictable, and it's brutalizing.

CORNISH: Isn't this in line, though, with the "America First" mantra?

BROOKS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it plays politically I think probably pretty well. Pick fights with foreigners; that's the core narrative of the Trump presidency I guess. So he is in some way sort of consistent and I would say ruinously consistent.

CORNISH: Ana, the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, says the retaliatory measures would affect less than 1 percent of the U.S. economy. And then you have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce saying, look; these policies could threaten 2.6 million jobs. That's still a lot of jobs, right? I mean, should the administration be more worried?

KASPARIAN: I do believe the administration should be more worried. And look; Wilbur Ross is going to say what the Trump administration wants him to say. In reality, I do believe that this is going to have a significant negative impact on our economy and specifically on our our farmers. I mean, it's - what I'm curious to see is how this will play out with Trump's base because the very people who did vote for him and continue to support him could potentially really feel the destruction of these tariffs.

So I don't think that it's a smart idea to underestimate the impact of the economy, and I absolutely agree that we are making enemies out of our allies. And we need those allies when we're dealing with China, for instance, on the trade issues. You know, they're much less likely to work with us if we are willing to slap these massive tariffs in the middle of them negotiating with us. So we'll see.

CORNISH: Finally, at the crossroads of politics and culture - comedians Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee. Barr saw her sitcom canceled by ABC for her tweet likening former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape. Bee found herself issuing a public apology to President Trump's daughter and adviser for using offensive language to describe Ivanka on Bee's TBS show "Full Frontal." Here is a clip. Consider yourselves warned.

BROOKS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE")

SAMANTHA BEE: Do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless [expletive]. He listens to you.

(CHEERING)

CORNISH: Now, the president hasn't defended Barr, but he says Bee should also be fired. David...

BROOKS: Well, yeah, I'm not sure about that. I hate the idea of people being fired over one offense. But I do think what's happening is sort of a good thing. I think the big story of what's happening is we're re-norming.

There - because of social media, because of Donald Trump, a lot of corrosion has happened in the way we talk to each other. And one of the good things about being conservative is you tend to think manners are more important than laws. There's a great Edmund Burke saying. Manners are what purify or degrade. And manners touch us every single day and really determine the shape of society. And our manners have taken a bit of a hit because of Trump and social media, and now we're trying to set some new laws.

And when you say a word like Samantha Bee used and when you say something like Roseanne said, which is far, far worse, than didn't just emerge out of nowhere. You've got to walk through a lot of doors until you get to that spot. And you have to have a general corrosion of manners to get there.

And as a society - and I think the #MeToo movement is part of this - we're now trying to draw that back. We're now trying to draw some new lines. This you cannot say. You can't even get close to saying this. So I think in general, it's an act of social healing - what we see in episodes like this.

CORNISH: OK, Ana, an act of social healing - I need your response to that 'cause it...

KASPARIAN: We certainly...

CORNISH: ...Feels like roadkill - feels like pop culture roadkill is what happened this week.

KASPARIAN: Right. Well, we certainly do need a moment to step back and think about the way that we talk to one another. The discourse in this country is outrageous. But I do want to point out that for every conservative pundit who's outraged over what Samantha Bee said, remember; we elected a president who, you know, said on tape that he grabs women by the genitals.

At the same time, you know, there's all this outrage from people like Sean Hannity. I'm curious when he was worried about this type of misconduct. Was it before or after, you know, two heavy hitters in Fox News were sexually assaulting and abusing women, his own colleagues? I mean, I don't like when women are used and exploited as political props, and I see that going on as well, and it's unacceptable.

CORNISH: At the same time, you had plenty of conservatives say Roseanne Barr was wrong, right? No one has been defending that. Is there something why liberals can say, look; Samantha Bee is wrong?

KASPARIAN: Well, I actually said that I didn't love what Samantha Bee - you know, the word she used and also the second part of her statement where she talks about Ivanka wearing, you know - wearing something that's provocative or shows a little bit of cleavage - whatever it was - to convince her father to agree with her on immigration.

I didn't like it because I don't want the left to stoop to that low level. I think that we really need to prevent ourselves from getting sloppy and focus on the issues because there are people in the middle who are turned off by this type of language. And we want to make sure that we cater to them and focus on policy rather than all this nonsense.

CORNISH: That's Ana Kasparian, host of The Young Turks Network. Thank you very much.

KASPARIAN: Thank you.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks for being here.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.