Sunday Political Brunch—April 16, 2017: Trump Changing His Tune

Sunday, April 16, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

Mark Curtis
Dr. Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations in West Virginia, and a Political Analyst for “The Brian Copeland Show” on KGO Radio 810-AM San Francisco.

There has been a lot of chatter this week in the news and on talk radio about how many times Donald Trump has changed positions now that he is President, compared to what he said on the campaign trail. In fairness, there have been consistencies, too! Let’s “brunch” on all that the Easter Sunday!

“Serious in Syria” – Last fall, when candidate Trump was asked about taking military action in Syria, he said, “What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria.” Last week, after he ordered missile attacks, he said, "Yesterday's chemical attack against innocent people - their deaths were an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated." So, what happened? Well, events and circumstance can change, prompting a policy change. I’d hardly call it a flip-flop. The difference between what was said in October and what was done in April was a chemical weapons attack on civilians.

“NATO No-No” – A year ago on the campaign trail, Trump’s criticism of NATO was a common theme. “My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits,” Trump said in a March 2016 Tweet. Trump’s two big beefs with NATO were that the U.S. paid a higher share of the cost and that NATO was not fighting terrorism. This past week, he said, "I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change; and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete; it's no longer obsolete." It’s not all coming up roses yet, but you could hear our European allies' collective sigh of relief.

“From Russia with No Love” – In the early days of the campaign, Trump said of Russia, "I was over in Moscow two years ago; and I will tell you — you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can't." Fast forward to April 2017 and he’s changed his tune on the heels of the Syrian gas attack. "Right now, we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said, adding that relations with Russia "may be at an all-time low." Trump has also changed his tune regarding China. During the campaign, he was highly critical of China’s trade policies, but has warmed up to the communist nation because he needs their support against North Korean aggression.

“Icing ISIS” – As previously mentioned, not all of Mr. Trump’s recent comments represented a change in position or policy. For example, during the campaign he said of ISIS: “I would just bomb those suckers; and that's right, I'd blow up the pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, I'd blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.” He may not have hit refineries yet, but dropped the “mother of all bombs” on an ISIS outpost in Afghanistan. On this issue, he is at least holding close to a campaign pledge, though there is much more work to be done.

“Read My Lips; No New Taxes” – George H.W. Bush won the White House in 1988 by famously saying, “Read my lips; no new taxes.” But, two years later, he raised taxes; and it cost him dearly. It is certainly one reason why he did not win a second term. Could Donald Trump’s position on NATO cost him a second term? I doubt it, and here’s why: Taxes are something that affect people personally. A tax increase has a direct impact on our wallets. Things like NATO seem remote from our daily lives. Yes, NATO is there to deter war; but unless it fails in that mission, a lot of its work goes largely unnoticed.

“With That Woman” – It wasn’t a public-policy flip-flop, but it surely was a personal one. Early in 1998, President Clinton denied having an affair with a White House intern: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” In September, 1998, Mr. Clinton addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, saying: “I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also, my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.” Yes, he was still impeached, but I always call that the speech that saved his Presidency.

“Why All This Matters” – I often say, “It’s one thing to campaign for President; it’s quite another thing to actually have the job.” A President is privy to far more intelligence data than a candidate. Sometimes, you get to the job and say, “Whoa, I had no idea.” I’ve always suspected that is why candidate Barack Obama said he’d close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but never did. Not only do time and circumstances change policy decisions; so, too, does new information. There is at least one funny twist to this story. A company called is selling Trump flip-flops (photo above) you can wear on your feet! I'm certain that Trump, the entrepreneur, would appreciate that!

Do you have a memorable example of a politician flip-flopping or changing a previous position or statement? To share it, just click the comment button at


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