It must have been fun in the higher councils of our government this week. The inimitable Donald Trump was out on the firing range with his famous Twitter cannon again, and this time the practice target was Canada. The thinking in the White House was probably that it was time to give Mexico a recess.
First there was the tariff attack on our softwood lumber industry. Admirers of the great Scottish immigrant lament, the Canadian Boat-Song, were naturally quite pained. The anonymous bard of our country’s early days was steadfast in the chorus of that fine lyric that our forests were a wonder: “Our hoary woods are grand,” he repeatedly urged. (In the innocent high schools of years past that line was a real chuckle rake. The good teaching nuns of the Presentation order knew that “hoary woods” was a trip mine for adolescent giggles, but they were a brave lot and read on regardless.)
Trump, perhaps immune to poetry’s sweet song, doesn’t think our hoary woods are grand. He had his lugubrious Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, announce punishing tariffs on Canadian lumber. Canada’s lumber industry, particularly on the West Coast, hasn’t been having an easy time for a long time. So this was hardly pleasing. But lumber was just the first round. Our of the Twitter chamber game the next blast: “Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” We’ve been having our own arguments and tribulations on this topic, but the Trump intervention radically intensified matters.