- - Thursday, March 31, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It isn’t everyday I get a note from one of Donald Trump’s former supporters, saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But earlier this week, Stephanie Cegielski, who was a consultant to a former “Make America Great Again” super PAC, (that has since shut down), read my column about how the former television reality show host is making stuff up about America’s trade record.

“The man does not know policy, nor does he have the humility to admit what he does not know,” Ms. Cegielski told me in an email, saying she no longer supports Mr. Trump.

Not only does he not know much about trade policies, but he’s given to inventing his own “facts” about them.

My column was about remarks Mr. Trump made last month, in which he said “They [Japan] have cars coming in [to the U.S.] by the millions, and we sell practically nothing.”

“We will keep the car industry in Michigan, and we’re going to bring car companies back to Michigan,” he told voters on a campaign swing through the rust belt.

But this is a deep distortion, if not downright false, about what is happening in the U.S. auto industry, making up a situation that does not exist.

Worse, Mr. Trump uses decades-old trade rhetoric that may have been legitimate in the ‘60s, ‘70s or later, but not in today’s global economy.

In one of the first Republican presidential debates this year, Mr. Trump said that Japanese ships were lined up on the west coast, loaded with cars to sell to Americans. That is no longer true.

While he’s telling voters that he will bring “jobs back to America,” the fact is that Japan is the one creating millions of jobs in our country.

Toyota, Honda and other European automakers have manufacturing plants across our country, where Americans are turning out cars, automotive parts and engines by the millions.

Most of these plants are set up in right-to-work states in the South where they don’t have to deal with unions, “and that in turn has led to supplier parks being established nearby,” says ace Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler.

“Michigan would have to pull up its socks in a big way,” says Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “You might be able to bring some auto production back to the United States but not Michigan.”

“In real terms, U.S. factories produced more output (looking at straight output or value added) last year than ever before in history,” says Dan Ikenson, director of trade policy studies at the free market Cato Institute.

“Year after year (with the exception of recessions), the sector breaks new records with respect to output, revenues, exports, imports, return on investment,” he adds.

At the same time, “Trump’s complaints about currency manipulation are woefully out of data,” Mr. Kessler says, quoting economist Fred Bergsten, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, who says Trump is “way out of whack.”

China hasn’t been manipulating its currency for about two years. Indeed, it’s been selling its dollars and reducing its reserves in the face of its economic slowdown.

Mr. Kessler, who gives out Pinocchios to people who make false and dubious claims in their campaign rhetoric, gave Mr. Trump four, his worst score for dishonesty.

Yet all of his false or outdated statements about trade and imports have remained a staple in his campaign rhetoric, duping voters into believing that he knows what he’s talking about.

People are beginning to catch on to Mr. Trump’s flimflam candidacy, and an increasing number of voters are turning away from him in droves.

Recent polling shows that both Mr. Trump and his remaining chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fell to new lows in their favorable ratings in March.

“The primary and caucus season is taking its toll on the images of three of the major presidential candidates,” writes Frank Newport, editor in chief of the well-respected Gallup Poll.

“Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, in particular, have suffered significant drops in their images over the past two months,” Mr. Newport said Wednesday.

Trump has always had the worst image” of any of the five active presidential candidates, “and his image has slipped further among Americans since January.”

His current minus-35 net favorable rating — 30 percent favorable and 65 percent unfavorable — “is the worst for him in any month since tracking began.”

“Cruz, like Trump, has seen his image deteriorate in recent months,” too, Mr. Newport says. His “net favorable score of minus-16 (based on 32 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable) is now the second lowest of the five candidates.

Hillary Clinton’s numbers are better, but still weak, 42 percent favorable versus 53 percent unfavorable.

The bottom line: Americans now view Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz in “a worse light than in any month since Gallup began last July.”

Judging from Mr. Trump’s incendiary remarks this week that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who got an abortion even if it was made illegal, the GOP’s polls are only going to get worse.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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