EDITORIAL: Trump roars against Harley
If you listen to President Donald Trump, it sounds like there is one company in particular that is so anti-American, so far removed from the national mainstream that it deserves not only contempt but loss of business.
This company has been an icon — fodder for movies, songs and books, its products as instantly recognizable as the flag and apple pie.
And yet the president is calling for a boycott of its goods because it's trying to maneuver its way through the trade war that he started.
After a meeting with bikers — the ones who rev their engines, not the ones who pedal, heaven forbid — Trump on Sunday took to Twitter to tell the world that a boycott of Harley-Davidson would be "Great!"
The sin that Harley committed? The company is moving some of its manufacturing to sites outside the U.S. in the wake of Trump's trade practices.
Shots in the trade war rang out when Trump announced tariffs on European steel and aluminum in June. Europe retaliated by imposing tariffs on Harleys, bourbon and peanut butter, all goods made in deeply red areas of the country, including York County.
Harley-Davidson announced in June that it would move some operations to Europe. Keeping manufacturing in the U.S. and eating the tariffs would cost the company around $100 million annually, it said in July.
And that wasn't the first shift for Harley this year. In April, it announced it was closing down its facility in Kansas City and moving those operations to a new plant in Thailand to serve its Asian market, along with moving some manufacturing to the Springettsbury Township plant.
The Thailand plan went into play after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year, Harley CEO Matt Levatich told Bloomberg.
“We would rather not make the investment in that facility, but that’s what’s necessary to access a very important market,” Levatich said of Thailand.
What it boils down to is, the president is making trade decisions that cost Harley-Davidson money, and the company is responding the best way it knows how. And Trump is punishing the manufacturer for its response.
Trump's relationship with Harley hasn't always been so fraught. In the first month of his presidency, Trump was supposed to go to the company's headquarters in Milwaukee and hold one of his rallies. But there were rumors of protests, and in the end the company brass visited the White House instead.
In the 18 months since then, the relationship has continue to sour, and now Trump is encouraging a boycott of the company.
During his photo ops with the bikers at his New Jersey golf club Saturday, Trump even used his hand to cover up Harley patches on men's jackets. He encouraged bikers to rev their engines and listen to the roar, apparently not realizing that the classic motorcycle roar comes from only one engine — Harley tried to trademark it in the 1990s but was turned down.
Yes, Harley's decisions will cost American jobs, but the alternative is taking a large hit that puts the entire company at risk, and its management needs to think of the bigger pictures and its stockholders wallets. Those wallets grew lighter on Monday, by the way, as Harley stock dropped after Trump's weekend tirade.
We all know Trump is given to big gestures and petty feuds. But the president of the United States has no business encouraging his followers to boycott an American manufacturer.
Trump doesn't want to take responsibility for the effects his trade war is having on U.S. businesses. Instead, he blames the victims of his twisted trade policies, and his followers continue to roar along behind him.