On Thursday, U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi invited President Donald Trump to visit the company’s operations on Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. Ron Brochu at Business North reports on the exchange.
“What a great company. I love Caterpillar. I’ve been driving ‘em for a long time,” the president said.
“Well, come out and see us and we’ll put you into one,” [Caterpillar Executive Doug] Oberhelman said.
After Longhi introduced himself, Trump expressed optimism about the domestic steel industry.
“You’re going to be doing pipelines now – you know that, right?” Trump told Longhi. “We’re putting you heavy into the pipeline business because we approved the Keystone and the Dakota…they have to buy steel made in this country and pipeline made in this country.”
Longhi suggested Trump get to the root of American-made steel.
“By the way, when you come to drive trucks, come up to Minnesota to see our mines. You’ll see them (trucks) running up there,” said the steel executive.
“I’ll do it. I’ll be out there,” Trump responded.
As Brochu points out, we don’t know if Trump was actually committing to a visit or just being polite. Presidential visits to the industrial frontier tend to be political maneuvers only deployed when necessary or advantageous.
The Iron Range represents the kind of place where Trump turned the electoral tables in last year’s election, swinging a former Democratic stronghold by 30 points. Politically, a visit here makes some sense.
But at the same time, Trump’s executive order demanding U.S.-made steel in the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines is more complicated than it sounds. Companies already ordered most of the steel for these projects. Much of it sits waiting to be installed. Nearly all of it comes from foreign sources.
The companies behind these projects now find themselves happy for the green light, but crapping bricks over the potentially crippling cost of reordering steel.
Decisions like this are really where the rubber of Trump’s campaign promises hits the road. And it’s unlikely Trump will pull a Calvin Coolidge move on the Iron Range unless he knows people will be happy to see him.
So will Trump visit the Iron Range? Possible, but it was always possible. Election year 2020 seems more likely. That span of time feels eternal.