Trump declares himself 'your all time favorite president' as new China tariffs take hold

Modesty has never been Donald Trump’s strong suit. On Friday, for instance, the president upgraded his assessment of himself the same day that he hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, a move that is likely to hurt American consumers and farmers, at least in the short run.

Economists have sought to counter Trump’s oft-repeated claim that his trade war with the Chinese benefits the U.S. economy, noting that tariffs are essentially a tax that will raise the price of consumer goods.

For the world’s “greatest” farmers, news of a prolonged trade war is not good news. China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans have sent farm bankruptcies soaring and soybean commodities futures plummeting.

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

But why argue numbers? The real story is that Trump has seen fit to give himself a promotion, after months of being content to simply call himself “your favorite President,” as a brief retrospective of his history of self-regard shows.

When Trump first made his “favorite President” boast on Twitter, he had only been in office 10 months and already his approval numbers were underwater. Perhaps this explains what might be seen as a tentative impulse of employing parentheses to remind his readers which president he meant.

That was a reference to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who began serving a three-year prison term this week, in part for crimes committed in service of Trump himself. The president’s tweet on July 21, 2018, came one day after an audiotape of Cohen and Trump discussing hush money payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the months before the 2016 presidential election was published by the New York Times. Trump, some readers may recall, had previously denied knowledge of such payments.

Lincoln, who certainly had his share of detractors in the newspapers of his day, faced the secession of 11 states from the Union, won a long and brutal civil war and was assassinated while in office. Nevertheless, by the start of this year, Trump was accustomed to declaring that he had “accomplished more” than any other president in history. With relatively few legislative victories to point to — tax cuts that have swelled the deficit and modest but necessary criminal justice reform —Trump’s own summary of his accomplishments usually boils down to good economic numbers and the appointment of staunchly conservative judges.

There is nothing new about the idea of an Independence Day celebration on the National Mall, but months in advance Trump was already assessing the turnout for this year’s celebration and declaring a new high-water mark. As he demonstrated on the campaign trail and in the weeks and months following his inauguration, Trump grades himself, generously, by the size of the crowds that turn out to see him. Of course, “A Salute To America” is a consolation prize, thrown together after the cancellation of Trump’s proposed Veterans Day parade last year to honor the U.S. military. Amid pushback from Pentagon officials and facing a price tag estimated at $92 million, Trump abruptly called it off in August. In promoting plan B, Trump noted that, because of the chosen day, “A Salute To America” wouldn’t incur additional costs for fireworks.

“We get free fireworks because it’s already being done,” Trump said, “so that’s very good.”

Very good? That seems uncharacteristically understated for a man who has had, to paraphrase former supporter Kanye West, one of the greatest presidencies of all time.

Ranking favorite U.S. presidents is a tricky business. Polls of ordinary Americans often give greater weight to those whose memory is still fresh. A University of Virginia Center for Politics/Ipsos poll released in February found that John F. Kennedy was rated as the most popular U.S. president. Barack Obama ranked third on that list, while Trump came in 10th place.

Polls of presidential historians routinely rank Lincoln as the greatest U.S. president, and a full assessment of a legacy takes slightly longer than it does to compose a tweet. As far as is known, Lincoln never boasted about his own greatness or compared himself to George Washington. None of this is to deny that many Americans regard Trump as their favorite president of all time.

And he isn’t about to let anyone forget it.

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