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A quick Googling of the phrase “Trump changes mind,” will yield about 36,000,000 results. This should come as no surprise given that the president has historically shifted his opinions on a number of hot-button issues. Just this last week, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump altered his stances on a number of major campaign positions pertaining to foreign and fiscal policy.
While one might think this behavior demonstrates hypocrisy on Trump’s end, I see it as an optimistic sign.
Let me just say: I am not the biggest fan—really not a fan at all—of President Trump. He’s been known for highly misogynistic remarks. His personality can easily be described as narcissistic. His personal views (and some executive orders) have greatly hindered Republican progress on racial inclusivity. I could go on.
All that being said, I do think these 180-degree pivots are a positive thing. It seems that the commander in chief is growing in his ability to integrate knowledge, perspective and humanity into his ideology and political platform.
Here are a few of the main campaign positions Trump changed his stance on, why he did so and why it matters:
No longer will China be labeled a “currency manipulator.”
Following talks last week with the Communist nation’s president, Xi Jinping, Trump went against his campaign-trial promises of labeling China a “currency manipulator.” Historically, DJT has been a fervent opponent of the People’s Republic, from insensitively accusing the country of “raping” the U.S. with its trade policies to blaming it for strategically creating the concept of global warming.
Why he changed his mind: First, the term “currency manipulator” is a serious governmental designation. The accusation initiates a formal process of investigation, so one should be absolutely positive their charges are valid. Second, China only meets one of the three criteria (i.e. a $20 billion surplus of trade revenue over the U.S.) to be labelled a currency manipulator. Third, but probably not last, Trump just doesn’t have a firm enough grasp of international trade policy—nor does he have an appropriately large economic team—to begin negotiations with the Communist nation.
Why it matters: Reflects greater self-awareness and indicates acknowledgement of personal abilities (or lack thereof).
Janet Yellen is now worthy of Trump’s “respect.”
In the past, Trump has spoken poorly of the Federal Reserve chief, for he disagreed with her low interest rate policies. He also asserted that her doing so was a biased effort to help out then-president Obama.
Why he changed his mind: As early as April 2016, Trump began changing his position on low interest rates to a more favorable one, although he still expressed inclination to replace Yellen in 2018. Yellen and the Fed initiated an unhurried raising of rates this past December and, because Trump has been informed it will not negatively affect his fiscal policy, he has not objected. The president even stated, “I like [Yellen]. I respect her.”
Why it matters: Demonstrates growing respect for those with whom he doesn’t agree and slightly lowers ranking in Misogyny Hall of Fame (that’s a joke).
NATO is “no longer obsolete.”
During his campaign, Trump downplayed the importance of the military alliance, which aims, in part, to protect member nations with alliances if they are attacked. In the past, Trump asserted other member nations had not been adequate financial contributors and the organization itself—which was constructed in response to the Cold War—was poorly designed to combat terrorism. He even stated that he would not be willing to support other NATO members if they did not satisfy their duties.
Why he changed his mind: On April 12, 2017, Trump held a press conference with NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, during which he pledged support for the alliance, proclaiming it is now working more effectively to fight terror. It should be noted, however, that these changes had nothing to do with Trump; efforts to combat extremism have been in the works for years.
Why it matters: Shows ability to take responsibility for mistakes and improper assumptions and suggests that post-WWII order will not be dismantled.
If one looks at Trump’s policy decisions over just, say, the past two months, it is all too easy to deem him a hypocrite or at best highly inconsistent. But I suggest that if one wishes to analyze Trump’s recent ideological shifts, they should regard his political career in a comprehensive manner. I honestly believe that, since he entered the political sphere, Trump has demonstrated incredible adaptive capacity. He entered the 2016 presidential race with no formal prior experience in politics and yet he won. If he can adjust that quickly to a new domain, perhaps he will learn how to be a decent president.
At the very least, Trump’s recent WSJ interview reflects his increasing knowledge of political affairs. At the very best, it suggests that our president might not be the selfish, ignorant businessman-turned-politico of which so many—myself included—were fearful.
Lauren Willson can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LaurenKealani