Trump is backpedaling on his ridiculous tariffs because he has no idea how to be president
Trump's planned tariffs on steel and aluminium have triggered fears of a trade war. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

After defying conventional wisdom, Republican Party dogma and many of his own advisers by announcing new steel and aluminum tariffs, President Donald Trump appears to be backpedaling on the brazen proposal.

The whole ridiculous saga reveals just how ill-equipped Trump is at being president.

When he initially decided on the plan, he reportedly said that the 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum would apply to all countries, because otherwise, everyone would ask for an exemption. Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said the same thing Sunday on CNN.

“There’ll be an exemption procedure for particular cases where you need to have exemptions so that business can move forward, but at this point in time, there’ll be no country exclusions,” Navarro said.

But on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dialed back that hard-line position.

"There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries, as well, based on that process," she said. "That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis."

So now it appears Canada, our top exporter of steel, and Mexico, our fourth most important steel exporter, will be exempt from the tariffs, significantly weakening the impact of the policy. Since the impact of the tariffs would be bad for American workers, that's a good thing. But why do it at all?

All reports suggest that Trump decided on the policy impulsively, which led chief economic adviser Gary Cohn to resign.

Trump's engaged in a lot of bluster over how important the tariff policy is and how tough he's going to be on it. Now, he appears to be watering it down, further tearing his credibility to tatters and revealing the shallowness of his policymaking.