When CNBC featured ex-Trump advisor Steve Bannon and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman discussing the U.S.-China trade war on Wednesday, viewers could be forgiven if they thought the segment would become an ideological slugfest.
However, it was anything but, and the Twitterverse went crazy. One tweet used the hashtag, #ParallelUniverse, summing up the seemingly unexpected agreement between Bannon, who diehard Democrats view as the antichrist, and Friedman, who works at what President Donald Trump calls “the failing New York Times.” Trump often accuses the publication of being biased against Republicans and his administration.
But the two have agreed Trump’s China policy for some time. Friedman, while critical of Trump on many issues, wrote about a year ago that the economic fight with China is “worth having,” adding the president’s “instinct is basically right” to hold the line “before China gets too big.” The country is so polarized politically that the mere mention of Bannon and Friedman being on the same page on anything becomes a watershed event.
“I really agree with so much of what Steve said,” said Friedman, who was guest-hosting “Squawk Box” during the Bannon interview Wednesday morning. “The stakes of this moment, I think, people don’t fully appreciate,” referring to the economic clash of the world’s two biggest superpowers.
Earlier, Bannon said the standoff with China “cuts to the core of what the United States is going to be in the future.” The hardline ex-White House chief strategist argued that Chinese policies on its economy and trade, including Made in China 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative, are part of a “master plan to become an economic hegemon.”
Bannon advocated the U.S. dig in, even as Washington and Beijing upped the ante on tariffs on each others goods after trade talks stalled. “There is no chance that Donald Trump backs down from this,” he said. “This is history in real time. This is the most significant thing that any president can possibly do.”
Later, addressing a question from Friedman about the politics of the 2020 presidential race facing the White House over China, Bannon said, “Remember when you came to the White House two years ago, you had come back from Beijing and we had this exact discussion. The biggest pressure the president has got is coming from his allies,” Wall Street and free-trade conservatives who want Trump to cut a quick deal rather than hold China’s feet to the fire on what the U.S. considers border economic cheating.
“Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernen marveled about how much Friedman and Bannon agree on, while referring to the Twitter discussion that ensued about the interview. “The universe did not end,” said Kernen, and Friedman responded by saying Bannon and he have actually been in sync on China for a while. “We’ve talked about this issue.”
ZeroHedge, a conservative business website, got on board early before the floodgates opened. Here’s a few examples of what a Bannon Friedman, search on Twitter turns up.