Trump and Tech: Very Unfair at Home, Very American Abroad

President Trump has a bipolar relationship with America's tech firms. At home, he sees them as bastions of liberalism that are systematically biased against him and his conservative followers.

But abroad, it's a different story.

Beyond America's borders, the president sees these companies as symbols of American technological prowess, not to be messed with, undermined, or treated unfairly by foreign governments.


That explains why on the same day that Trump is hosting a summit at the White House to blast the "dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression" he says is characteristic of social media companies, his administration is also launching a probe into whether France's new digital services tax unfairly targets America's tech giants.

The French measure, passed Thursday, imposes a 3 percent tax on tech firms whose annual revenues exceed 750 million Euros globally and 25 million Euros in France. That's a very small number of companies, and since most of them are American, the Trump Administration, with bipartisan backing, says it's a discriminatory swipe at the United States that violates trade rules.

The administration's investigation could open the way to fresh US tariffs on French goods like wine and automobiles.

What explains the home-and-away difference in Trump's view of Big Tech? In part, it's the old "I can criticize my own tribe, but you better not" behavior common to us all.

More importantly, it's also good politics. At home, attacking the perceived liberal bias of social media companies stokes his conservative base (never mind the central role that these platforms play in his own political strategies).

And abroad, Trump's "America First" agenda seeks to boost US firms while also creating maximal leverage to extract concessions from foreign governments on trade and security issues.

Finally, when someone hits you, according to the Trump playbook, you always hit them back harder.

En garde!

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Does Boris Johnson strengthen or weaken the US-UK relationship?

Well I mean strengthens it in so far as he and Trump like each other. They're both oriented towards Brexit. They're kind of right-wing populists that aren't ideologically moored. But will it last? Boris could flip on a dime on any major issue as can Trump. So it's kind of volatile. Plus they both really love the media and when they're in front of each other with other people the potential to - I mean Boris upsets people and Trump easily takes offense. So this could easily go south.

Will Iran release the captured UK oil tanker?

I mean over time I suspect it will. But remember the UK has an Iranian tanker as well, so it's much more likely they work these things out together even if they're not explicitly linked, than suddenly the Iranians say, "Oh I'm sorry. Here's your tanker"

Will protests continue in Hong Kong?

It certainly seems that way. The question is what will China do about it? Xi Jinping is now saying that they are reaching the danger zone and the ability of the Chinese to hit back and hit back hard is real. I worry about those protesters.

Will Robert Mueller reveal anything new when he testifies on Capitol Hill?

I highly doubt it. He said very clearly that he does not intend to go beyond what was in his report. So Democrats looking for bombshells on collusion or obstruction are likely to be disappointed.

Can President Trump expand his electoral college edge in 2020?

Well he thinks he can. He thinks he can win in places like Minnesota and New Hampshire. I think it's more likely that he just hangs on to the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that got him there in 2016.

Should the governor of Puerto Rico resign?

Absolutely. Governor Rossello should resign. He's lost the confidence of the island. Puerto Rico needs a fresh start particularly after all these terrible text messages. He should definitely resign.

Finally for The Rant: today's rant is on Elizabeth Warren who put out a report today saying the economy is on the brink of collapse. It was very alarmist, certainly there are problems with the economy. Issues that could be fixed but she risks sounding like she's yelling fire in a crowded theater with calls like that.

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