It wasn’t an official campaign event, but it might as well have been. When Donald Trump flew in Air Force One to Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, the president got a tour of the small factory that’s assembling Apple’s Mac Pro computers. This is the same factory that’s been churning out that model since 2013, but that fact apparently didn’t seem to matter to the president. Right after the visit, Trump took credit for opening the factory and took a swipe at American Democrats. Apple hasn’t said a word about the truth.
Taking credit for things he didn’t do is not a new hobby for the president. Neither is lying, in general. There were actually two lies in Trump’s tweet about the Apple factory:
Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America. Today Nancy Pelosi closed Congress because she doesn’t care about American Workers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2019
Nancy Pelosi did not, in fact, close U.S. Congress on Wednesday, although Trump might be making a sideways reference to the historic, attention-grabbing impeachment inquiry happening right now in the House. But that line about the Apple plant is very clearly false. Operated by Flextronics America—Flex for short—the Austin facility opened during the Obama administration and has been assembling Mac Pros since 2013. While Flex originally hoped that the Apple plant would lead to as many as 1,700 new jobs, the New York Times reports that the facility currently employs “about 500 people.” What’s actually new at the plant is the latest Mac Pro, which Trump spent some time observing on Wednesday.
“For me, this is a very special day,” the president said after the tour. Trump highlighted how American-made products don’t face tariffs and said his administration would “look into” offering Apple more tariff waivers in the future. He added, “Tim Cook is someone I greatly respect.”
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, must have known what was happening. While the Apple executive has been critical of Trump’s environmental and immigration policies in the past, he seemed truly willing to let the president use his factory floor as a platform for bragging about his trade war. Cook even gave Trump a panel from a Mac Pro engraved, “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in USA.” Flanked by Treasury Secretary Seth Mnuchin and his daughter Ivanka, Trump held it like a championship wrestling belt and smiled for pictures.
“I’m grateful for their support in pulling today off and getting us to this far,” Cook said after Trump’s remarks. “It would not be possible without them.”
It’s hard to imagine how this is true. Again, the Mac Pro factory has been assembling Macs since 2013, and Apple announced two months ago that the same factory would be assembling the new model. Perhaps Cook was referring to a different event that took place in Austin just a few hours before President Trump arrived. On Wednesday morning, Apple began construction on a new $US1 ($1) billion campus that was announced a year ago and is set to open in 2022. This won’t be a manufacturing facility, however. The Times reports that it will host “about 5,000 white-collar employees in areas like engineering, sales, operations and customer support.”
So why didn’t Trump visit the construction site and hold a gold shovel or something? Isn’t that sort of his thing?
One obvious explanation is that Trump knows his base doesn’t want to hear about white-collar jobs. Trump promised them he’d bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and that’s ostensibly a big reason why the administration has been waging war with China over tariffs. The trade war is not going well, however, and neither is Trump’s effort to boost open more factories. Recent data shows that manufacturing is now in decline across the United States, and it doesn’t look like it will bounce back in the near future. Sure, the Apple factory that has been making Mac Pros for the past six years will continue to make the computers. Apple has not, however, announced any new American factories this week.
Apple so far has not addressed Trump’s false claims about the Texas factory, and the company did not respond to a request for comment on this piece. As John Gruber argues on Daring Fireball, the company has no reason to speak up, because the Trump administration is giving them some welcome relief from tariffs. Gruber writes of Trump’s visit to Austin:
This wasn’t a promotion for the Mac Pro or its assembly plant. It was a promotion for Trump. This video makes it look like Trump’s trade policies have been good for Apple and that Tim Cook supports Trump. Both of those things are false. Even Trump’s predictable claim that this is a new facility is false — Apple, in what at the time was a high-profile shift, has been manufacturing Mac Pros at the same facility since 2013. Apple isn’t bringing Mac Pro assembly back to the U.S. because of Trump’s trade policies; Apple is keeping Mac Pro production here solely because Trump granted Apple an exemption to his tariffs — tariffs that he himself clearly does not understand.
But Cook went into this knowing that this is how Trump would play it — a big pile of nonsensical horseshit all the way down.
It seems like the stunt might pay off for Cook and pals. After all, Trump suggested that more tariff waivers could be on the way for Apple. The company has already benefited from the Trump administration’s tax cuts, and the president has continued to push Apple to add more jobs to the American economy. Based on what’s happening in Texas, it looks like Apple will add a whole bunch of white-collar jobs, and that’s good for everyone. Trump will just lie and call them manufacturing jobs, gaslighting the nation again as he barrels towards reelection. The truth went out the window a long time ago, and apparently, self-preservation is all any of us have left.