[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following might be an actual letter written by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to his beloved as the trade wars reach their acme. Or it might be an homage to the Ballou letter memorialized in Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary and satirized in Alyssa Rosenberg’s Galactic Civil War. In this post-fact world, who is to say?]

[ACTUAL EDITOR’S NOTE: We are to say. This is a satire.]

My dear, Sarah:

Indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days toward the climactic battle in the trade wars — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to email again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more …

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the protectionist cause in which I am engaged, and my courage in battling the evils of China or the World Trade Organization (I forget which at times) does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American First now leans on the triumph of the Trump administration and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the previous trade wars. True, my advocacy for voluntary export restraints back in the day midwifed the Japanese luxury auto sector, but the purpose was noble even if the logic was poor. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my duty-free imported joys in this life, to help maintain this administration, and to make China pay that debt. Or Mexico. It might be India, actually.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but imported steel or aluminum could break; and yet my love of tariffs comes over me like a strong unilateral threat of economic pressure on our trading partners and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the trade skirmishes to come.

And I will strike down upon thee with great protection and furious national security provisions those who attempt to dump and undercut the price of my domestic industries. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my tariffs upon thee! My apologies Sarah, my zeal for the cause of trade protection temporarily transported me to another time and place. I’m sorry, my dear Sarah, for the spirit of another great speech temporarily possessed me. My fervor for the forces of protection truly knows now bounds.

The memories of the blissful moments of autarky I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when my president looks good and ready to quickly surrender the battle we now face. We might still have lived and loved together, and seen our infant industries grown up to protected sectors that lavished our party with healthy campaign contributions around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon sound economic theory, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of Smoot and Hawley, that I shall return to my protected ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me in the Oval Office after our president disregards my advice and tweets his scorn upon me, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I allow our swelling trade deficit to engulf every little spot upon your happiness …

But, O Sarah! If the deadweight loss that the trade wars have incurred can come back to this earth and fill the coffers of those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the open and closed economy … always, always, and if there be a soft global supply chain breathing upon your cheek, it shall not be my breath, as I am trying my darnedest to disrupt them. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again. After all, it is only a trade war costing in the billions with little to show for it in the way of substantive concessions …

Robert Lighthizer will likely be undercut in his trade negotiations a week from now by the president of the United States.