Breakfast with Larry Kudlow, including a little loving banter

Trump’s top economic adviser mixes it up with reporters on China trade, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the president’s reported comment to Fed Chair Jay Powell - ‘I guess I’m stuck with you.’

Matt Orlando/The Christian Science Monitor
Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow discusses tariffs and trade at the border with reporters at a Monitor Breakfast on April 3 in Washington.

Larry Kudlow almost needs no introduction to longtime cable TV viewers and, more recently, Trump-watchers. For years, Mr. Kudlow hosted a show on CNBC all about markets, politics, and economic policy – bringing his Wall Street background, service in the Reagan administration, and exuberant persona to the table.

So we were delighted to bring Mr. Kudlow – now director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council – to our own table April 3 for his first Monitor Breakfast. He arrived at the St. Regis carrying a thick folder of news articles, a sign of all the economic topics that were swirling: the U.S.-Mexico border, China trade, the Federal Reserve, Venezuela.

Some of the reporters present were already on a first-name basis with Mr. Kudlow. And at times, the banter became playful. When a discussion of the Fed’s independence turned to a comment President Trump had reportedly made on the phone to Fed Chair Jay Powell – “I guess I’m stuck with you” – Mr. Kudlow turned toward a journalist at the table: Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal, who broke that story.

“Nick, I was thinking about you this morning; you're never far from my thoughts,” Mr. Kudlow said, to laughter.

He continued: “You know, the president may have said that lovingly, very lovingly, you know what I mean? Think about that.”

Did he say that lovingly?” a reporter asked.  

“Well, I wasn’t on the conversation,” Mr. Kudlow said. “I'm just opening up that possibility. It might have been a very loving, affectionate, kind of a huggy thing on the phone.”

My thoughts turned to Joe Biden, but thankfully the discussion didn’t go there. We stuck with economic matters, and when the breakfast ended, the headlines started cranking. Damian Paletta of the Washington Post led with the border-closing debate. Bloomberg went with U.S. economic plans for a post-Maduro Venezuela. The Hill led with Mr. Kudlow’s assurance that the president still backed Stephen Moore for the Fed.

Mr. Kudlow, in fact, stayed well beyond the end of the breakfast, answering questions in a scrum of reporters. He’s known for being media-friendly; no surprise there, given his background. Now, as the president’s top economic adviser, he often strolls out to “pebble beach,” the bank of TV cameras permanently positioned outside the West Wing, for interviews. White House briefings are rare these days, and so his “driveway gaggles” with reporters can be especially valuable.

Most intriguing to me is how an “old free-trader,” as Mr. Kudlow calls himself, could work for the more protectionist Mr. Trump. Of course, the two are old friends. But in our breakfast, Mr. Kudlow explained how he has come to see the value of tariffs as a negotiating tool. That’s how I led my breakfast story.

My colleague Mark Trumbull quoted Mr. Kudlow extensively in his story: “Why capitalism in America now needs its defenders.”

To watch the C-SPAN video of our breakfast, click here.

And stay tuned for our next two breakfasts: Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on May 8; and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on June 19.

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