Trump: Flip-flopping on campaign promises
Is Donald Trump a hypocrite? asked Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. “For the nation’s sake, let’s hope so.” Only days after winning the election, Trump elicited howls of protest from his more rabid supporters when he walked back his chilling campaign pledge to prosecute Hillary Clinton. He then went on to praise President Obama (formerly “the worst president in history”) and say that he was open to preserving some elements of the Affordable Care Act. Last week, in an interview with The New York Times, Trump retreated even further toward “realism and good sense.” On climate change, the president-elect now claims to have “an open mind” about the Paris agreement to slash emissions, which he once “threatened to tear up,” and is apparently no longer convinced of the need to bring back torture for terrorist suspects. It’s been a “breathtaking fortnight of flip-flopping” from Trump, said David Ignatius, also in the Post. Ordinarily we look for consistency and principle in our politicians. But given the “reckless and damaging” pledges he made on the campaign trail, “perhaps we should be thankful this week for Donald Trump’s insincerity.”
Don’t be fooled, said Robinson Meyer in TheAtlantic.com. The president-elect may sound like a moderate when he’s wooing liberal Times editors, but his Cabinet nominations and staffing choices so far have been those of an “extremist Republican.” If Trump were softening his positions, would he have picked Myron Ebell, a professional climate-change denier, to lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency? Or immigration hard-liner Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General? To his credit, Trump was fairly blunt on the campaign trail about what he hoped to achieve in office, said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com. He vowed to crack down on illegal immigration and slash corporate taxes. No president manages to follow through on every campaign promise, of course, but it does look as if Trump is “prepping to take a real shot at doing what he can.”
Trying to determine Trump’s actual beliefs or agenda “is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall,” said Harry Enten in FiveThirtyEight.com. His transition picks may indicate “an instinct to go hard right,” but Trump’s own words really have been much more moderate since the election. He has barely mentioned immigration, the centerpiece of his campaign. The only policy outlined in his victory speech was a New Deal–ish program of infrastructure spending. And in a YouTube video outlining the agenda for his first 100 days, Trump almost sounded like “a Bernie Sanders–style Democrat,” with a focus on jobs, worker-friendly trade deals, and lobbying reform. So far, President-elect Trump is a vast improvement over Trump the candidate, said Fareed Zakaria in WashingtonPost.com. If this is flip-flopping, “we should all hope that he flip-flops some more.”
Trump’s not a “flip-flopper,” said Salena Zito in NYPost.com. He’s a businessman, and business people change their minds a lot. Why? Not because they lack courage or conviction, but because they care more about real-world results than about ideological purity. To a lifelong deal maker like Donald Trump, “everything is negotiable,” and the flexible, freewheeling pragmatism he displayed throughout the campaign was evidently a quality that voters found attractive. Maybe so, said Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post, but they were also attracted by Trump’s unambiguous promises to bring back jobs, defeat ISIS, fix the U.S. health-care system, and do so much else. If he doesn’t start delivering, and quickly, his supporters may soon join the rest of us in wondering just “who is the real Donald Trump, and what does he stand for?”
Only in America
■ A transgender police officer in San Diego was barred from an LGBT event that she helped organize over concerns that her uniform would upset other attendees. Officer Christine Garcia provided security for the annual march honoring victims of anti-transgender violence. But when she tried to enter a post-march event, she was turned away. A spokesperson blamed the incident on a “misunderstanding.”
■ A conservative organization has compiled a watch list of 200 college professors it claims hold “radical” liberal beliefs. The Professor Watchlist, created by Turning Point USA, identifies one faculty member as a “prominent Marxist economist,” and another as a leader of anti– campus carry efforts. The site encourages students to send in tips about professors advancing “leftist propaganda.”
Good week for:
Crowdsourcing, after NASA announced that it would pay a $30,000 award to anyone who could help devise a hygienic way for astronauts to poop and pee inside their space suits, without having to use an uncomfortable diaper.
Going gonzo, after Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, Anita, announced plans to sell strains of marijuana cultivated from the remnants of the writer’s personal stash. “I’m looking forward to being a drug lord,” she said.
Feeling the spirit, after scientists at the University of Utah discovered that engaging in prayer has the same effect on religious people’s brains as having sex. “We’re just beginning to understand how the brain participates in experiences that believers interpret as spiritual, divine, or transcendent,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Anderson.
Bad week for:
Helicopter parenting, after a court in Switzerland ruled that a 7-year-old boy must attend a specialized school because his doting parents spoiled him so much that he can’t cope with the challenges of a regular school environment.
Kind words, after Dictionary.com announced that “ xenophobia” was its word of the year for 2016. The site saw a huge spike in searches for the term, which is defined as “fear and hatred of foreigners,” in the wake of the Brexit vote and as Donald Trump moved closer to securing the GOP nomination.
Love potions, after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ordered his country’s scientists to develop a cure for male sexual dysfunction using snake extracts, sea urchins, and mushrooms soaked in alcohol.
Boring but important
Immigrant detention challenge
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether immigrants can be detained indefinitely while a court decides whether to deport them. The case concerns legal permanent residents who have committed a crime, as well as people seeking asylum in the U.S. Forty percent of legal immigrants facing deportation ultimately win their cases, as do 70 percent of asylum seekers—but they spend an average of 13 months in harsh detention conditions awaiting a court’s decision. Two federal appeals courts have ruled that immigrants should be granted a bond hearing after six months of detention. The Obama administration challenged those rulings, arguing that immigration matters are the domain of the executive and legislative branches.