The presidential bully pulpit has been largely empty over the last eight years. President Obama’s preferred method of persuasion was to lecture us about our shortcomings and hector the voters with whiny complaints about how we don’t listen to him.
That may change with Donald Trump. Yesterday, Trump warned General Motors that if it tried to sell cars made in Mexico in the U.S., it would be hit with a big “border tax.”
Now Ford Motor Company has scrapped plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and will instead create 700 jobs in Michigan.
A combination of threats against companies that plan to move plants overseas and a promise of pro-growth policies under Trump appears to be working.
“We’re doing this decision based on what’s right for our business,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network. “As we think about the investments here in Michigan, as you can imagine, Neil, we look at a lot of factors as we make those. One of the factors that we’re looking at is a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump and some of the pro-growth policies he said he’s going to pursue. And so this is a vote of confidence.”
Fields said Ford would have gone ahead with the decision whether or not Trump was elected president, however, he did say that he alerted both Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence ahead of the announcement on Tuesday.
The Ford news was the latest in a string of pre-inauguration successes for Trump in the manufacturing sector.
In early December, air conditioner and furnace maker Carrier agreed to stay in Indiana after weeks of negotiations headed by Pence. The decision reportedly saved about 700 jobs that would have been shifted to Mexico.
Later in the month, wireless provider Sprint and Internet company OneWeb announced they would be adding thousands of jobs in the U.S. Both companies are controlled by SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, who had previously met with Trump.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Trump took aim at another auto giant: General Motors.
“General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!” Trump tweeted.
GM, however, quickly pushed back on Trump’s assertions.
“GM builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number sold in the U.S.” a statement said.
The investment in the Flat Rock Assembly Plant is set to create 700 jobs, according to Fields. The money, which was taken from the $1.6 billion earmarked for the Mexico plant, will be used to open a new factory that will build high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles as well as the Mustang and Lincoln Continental, the company said in a press release.
The president’s powers are not very well defined in the Constitution. But the Founders weren’t particularly worried largely because they knew who the first president would be. The fact that there was a chief executive written into the Constitution at all is because Washington enjoyed the supreme confidence of delegates that he wouldn’t govern like a tyrant.
But not all presidential powers are listed in the Constitution or inferred from that document. The president’s biggest weapon has always been his ability to persuade, to cajole, to even threaten people to do his bidding. His personal popularity is like a bank from which he judiciously draws down his account, using his power only when necessary. And his skill as a persuader is an ace up his sleeve. There’s a knack to using the bully pulpit. Some, like Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, were masters of the art form. Others, like Jimmy Carter and Obama, hadn’t a clue.
Donald Trump appears to have a grasp of what the bully pulpit is for. How much success he has will depend on how carefully he uses that power and what he uses it for.