George Bush went to economically-battered Ohio yesterday to talk up the economy on the same day it was announced the United States’ trade deficit climbed to a record $43.1 billion in January, thanks to imports from China and sagging domestic exports. “Not exactly the best way to position the president’s message,” says Billmon at Whiskey Bar.

That wasn’t the only scheduling snafu for the Bush-Cheney re-election effort, notes Billmon. Late in the afternoon, the White House announced that a new assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services would be named this morning. The Kerry camp stole the thunder — and made some at the same time — by tipping reporters that the new appointee, Anthony F. Raimondo, had laid off 75 U.S. workers in 2002, several months after announcing plans to build a $3 million factory in China.

“D’oh!” says Billmon, who says the timing “advance[d] the Bush team’s emerging reputation for incompetence.”

Calpundit scores the president poorly on matters of trade. “Listening to George Bush is like the sound of a pair of slippers on a wooden floor,” he writes. “Flip flop, flip flop.” And, he reminds us all of the impending Chinese bra flap.

Noam Scheiber, writing for the New Republic Online’s “&c,” says Republican counter-efforts to portray Kerry as the true Flip-Flop artist (this is rapidly moving into verboten cliché territory, folks) won’t stick when it comes to trade. “Kerry has a pretty consistent record of supporting free trade during his years in the Senate,” says Scheiber (who conveniently omits the fact that Kerry took up John Edwards’ cry against outsourcing of U.S. jobs like a hound dog in heat during the frenzy of the recent primaries.) “But probably the most important reason the flip-flopping charge isn’t going to work here,” opines Scheiber, “is that, when it comes to trade, George W. Bush is far and away the more egregious flip-flopper.” (Find a new word, pul-eeze!!!)

And finally, we hear from an optimistic Amy Sullivan, writing on Political Aims, who likes the harmonic vibes coming from the Democratic Party these days. Although the upcoming campaign “is not gonna be pretty,” Sullivan writes, the Dems for once are unified.

“We’ve fought some pretty close elections while operating with all the discipline of a horde of seven-year-olds in Chuck E. Cheese. Just imagine what we could accomplish with a little organization and structure,” she imagines, almost wistfully.

Susan Q. Stranahan

If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.