On Monday, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said last month’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase “was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.” At the time of the attack, Trump was having dinner with President Xi Jinping of China at his Palm Beach private resort, Mar-a-Lago.
Ross made the joke in front of a large crowd of attendees at the Milken Institute Global Conference. The official was discussing the meeting between Trump and Xi on the night of the attack.
Just as dessert was being served, the President explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria. It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment,
The joke sparked a fit of laughter across the audience, and Ross, as an economist, felt obliged to add that the “entertainment” didn’t cost a thing. However, he was factually incorrect, because Market Watch found that each missile cost U.S. taxpayers $1 million. And there were 59 of them.
At this Monday’s Milken Institute Global Conference 4,000 people were present including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Co-President David Solomon, hedge-fund investor Ken Griffin, and many others.
Trump’s Own Eyebrow-Raising Mistake on the Syrian Strike
Nevertheless, Ross is not the only one to make an eyebrow-raising comment about the U.S. missile attack in Syria. Days after the attack, Trump told Fox News Business every tiny detail of the dessert he served at Mar-a-Lago on the night of the attack but couldn’t remember which country he had just bombed.
At the time, Trump bragged he authorized the missile strike while he was serving dessert with the Chinese president. Trump noted that he and his guest were serving the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when his generals called him to inform him that they were ready for launch.
The president said he told Xi that 59 Tomahawk missiles were just heading to… Iraq. When the reporter jumped in and corrected the president by saying that the country he just bombed was Syria, not Iraq, Trump agreed and continued the interview like nothing happened.
Top Takeaways from the Milken Institute Global Conference
On Monday, leaving aside Ross’ joke, many important topics were discussed.
Secretary Mnuchin shared some thoughts on the first ultra-long federal bond issuance, which, in his opinion, could help the U.S. government get rid of its ballooning deficit. Mnuchin said he wouldn’t back Trump’s plan to revive infrastructure at the cost of more debt.
A hedge fund manager noted investment banks should file for divorce from commercial banks as soon as possible, citing significant benefits for the U.S. economy. Other bankers were unconvinced that a partnership between the private and public sector would help solve the infrastructure deficit.
Another speaker said that e-commerce is the best thing that could happen to traditional retailers, while Goldman Sachs co-president explained the bank’s giant disappointing trading results last quarter were caused by “lower client activity,” not the bank’s risk management policies.
Image Source: Fortune