Steel Tariffs Appear to Have Backfired on Bush
Move to Aid Mills and Gain Votes in 2 States Is Called Political and Economic Mistake
By Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 19, 2003; Page A01
In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection.
Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy. "The only reason they won't do it is if they're unwilling to admit they made a mistake," said a Republican strategist who works closely with the White House.
Administration officials said the office of Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was a vocal and energetic advocate of tariffs during the debate last winter.  The strategizing was "too clever by half," [one] economist said. "It presupposed that nobody was watching what we were doing, and it presupposed that our credibility was of no importance."
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How To Tell One Bush Miscue From Another:
Steel tariffs Iraq Invasion
Cost more than Expected Cost More Than Expected
Spun by Karl Rove Spun by Karl Rove
Supposed to save jobs Supposed to save lives
Cost jobs Cost lives
Based on weak-ass claims of WMD Based on weak-ass claims of dumping
Pushed by brainiac Bob Zoellick Pushed by brainiac Paul Wolfowitz
Brainiac never actually served in army
Brainiac never actually made steel
Supposed to help '04 re-election bid Supposed to help '04 re-election bid
Has end up hurting W's chances Will end up hurting W's chances
Lies being exposed by economics Lies being exposed by facts on ground
Tried to scapegoat foreigners Tried to scapegoat foreigners
Bush probably didn't understand details Bush probably didn't understand details
Photo op:  Pose in hard hat Photo op: Pose in flight suit*
Made Allies mad Made Allies mad
Locale victimized: OH, MI Locale victimized: Middle East
Electoral votes wielded by victims: 47
Electoral votes wielded by victims: 0
We may admit we screwed up
"Iraq is central front in war on terror"
*Speculation that Bush is simply working through the Village People Funny Hat Photo Op Set is Misguided.