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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.