Friday, 14 April 2017

Donald Trump: king of the flip-flops

Everything that follows was said by Donald Trump:  

'When you talk about currency manipulation ... they [China] are world champions.' -- Interview with Financial Times, 2 April 2017

'[China] are not currency manipulators.' -- Interview with Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2017

'I said it [Nato] was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.' -- press conference, 12 April 2017

'China has great influence over North Korea.' - Interview with Financial Times, 2 April 2017

'After listening [to President Xi Jinping of China] for 10 minutes, I realised it’s not so easy.' -- Interview with Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2017

You get the picture. The president of the United States is a man who has redefined the art of the political flip-flop. According to one calculation, he reversed position on no fewer than six policy issues last Wednesday alone.

So here's the question: do you approve or disapprove? One interpretation of what he's up to is that he's learning fast -- and that the simplistic, shoot-from-the-lip stuff that served him well enough on the campaign trail is now being jettisoned in favour of a more nuanced, bipartisan, even globalist approach.

Mr Trump seems, however, to recognise that he's vulnerable to the charge that he's ripping up his promises by the barrel-load. On Twitter, which is where you find the 'real' Donald Trump (not for nothing is his Twitter handle @realDonaldTrump), he insisted: 'One by one we are keeping our promises - on the border, on energy, on jobs, on regulations. Big changes are happening!'

He also claimed, for good measure: 'Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!'

I can't tell you how much better that made me feel.

And I think we have to assume that authorising the US air force to drop the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal -- the 21,000-ton so-called 'mother of all bombs' -- on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan must have made Mr Trump feel a lot better as well. After all, he did promise to 'bomb the shit' out of the Islamic State group, so he probably regards this as one promise he has kept.

Perhaps, though, he's not learning anything. Perhaps he's just listening to different people. His arch-ideologue chief strategist Steve Bannon is apparently being pushed out of the inner circle, and perhaps out of the White House entirely, which is probably the best place for a man who once said: 'Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal too ... I want to bring everything crashing down ...'

My suspicion is that what we're actually witnessing is a president who still doesn't have a clue what he's doing. This, after all, is the man who when he proudly described to a TV interviewer how he broke the news to President Xi that he had authorised a cruise missile attack on Syria used these exact words:

'I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We are now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? And we made a determination to do it. So the missiles were on the way. And I said: "Mr President, let me explain something to you … we’ve just launched 59 missiles, heading to Iraq."'

Iraq. He said Iraq. And when the interviewer gently corrected him, he just shrugged 'Yeah, heading towards Syria.' As if he didn't know the difference. And didn't much care either.

Before he took office, Mr Trump told everyone who would listen that he expected to get on just fine with Russia but that the real enemy was China. Now, after less than a hundred days in the White House, it's exactly the other way round.

He was going to get rid of Obamacare, introduce a massive tax reform programme, and build a wall (sorry, a beautiful wall) along the border with Mexico. He has done none of it.

Good news? Bad news? Personally, I see no cause for celebration. The best that we can hope for is that the Trump administration may not turn out to be quite as bad as we feared at the start.  But I still regard the words President Trump as two of the scariest words in the English language.


Anna Meryt - About Me said...

I watch with endless fascination, the daily utterances of Mr.T. Sometimes I laugh out loud. It's beyond hysteria.

Anonymous said...

If he really is as uninformed as he appears to be on just about everything outside his own business world, then the future of international stability seems to lean on those around him who he relies on for advice. With his current team and his seeming reliance on family members (and Fox News), it really doesn't fill you with confidence, does it? We survived Reagan and Dubya - but a third time lucky?

Chris F said...

And what's he going to do for an encore (serious question)? I imagine sensible Democrats in expectation of better election results in 2018 are already in private conversations with the more blue-blooded Republicans with a view to moderating a POTUS shoot-from-the-hip policy.