Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No Harley's Matt Levatich didn't call Trump a moron. Trump, however, is hitting back anyway.

Trump: I thank Harley for building in America from CNBC.

What a difference a year makes, eh? Shortly after he took office, Donald Trump met with Harley-Davidson executives and union leaders, taking the opportunity to describe Harley as "...an American icon; one of the greats." Now, the company finds itself in a feud with the Bully-in-Chief.

Last week, an unsourced quote ostensibly from Harley-Davidson's CEO Matt Levatich flew around the Twittersphere.
“Our decision to move some of our operations is 100% based on President Trumps tariffs. Mr. Trump knows nothing about economics and even less about trade. The man is a moron.”

I knew the moment that I read it that it wasn't a real quote, and frankly, everyone else should have known, too. (In the limited defense of people who believed it, Levatich did, before the last election, criticize the Republican primary field in what was likely a thinly-veiled insult to The Donald.)

Harley-Davidson, in frantic damage control mode, issued a strong denial.

The matter should have ended there, but it seems not to have ended, because this morning, Donald Trump responded with something that isn't a fake tweet, attacking Harley-Davidson.

There are about seven levels of bullshit in this, beginning with the fact that Trump cites 2017 sales figures, figures from a year when Harley execs put on a fawning display on the White House driveway for Trump and Pence -- after which Trump thanked Harley for building so many bikes in the U.S. (If you want a point-by-point explanation of just how stupid this tweet is, go here.)

Harley-Davidson faces a host of challenges, not the least of which are increased costs of materials and new tariff barriers as a result of Trump's trade policies. As a Kansas Citian, I'm bummed that they're closing the plant here.

This iconic company may not face an existential crisis, but it's not far off. Whenever I'm at a gathering of motorcycle journalists and motorcycle industry executives, the topic of "What can Harley do?" inevitably comes up, and few if any of the assembled 'experts' have any good ideas to offer. I, for one, actually have high hopes for the 'Livewire' project, but I'll breathe a sigh of relief if that even happens.

This story's not going away today, either; since my original post I've even heard about it on NPR. What should Harley do? Nothing, for fuck's sake. Just wait, head down, until Trump turns his attention somewhere else.

That said, I can't help but wonder whether, some day, Trump will attack some American icon and have his supporters finally decide it's beyond the pale. I can only dream... In the meantime, the last fucking thing Harley needs is Trump kicking 'em when they're down.


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