Donald Trump promised to be open-minded on a number of issues. Over the past week, he's delivered.The man who pledged to cut deals rather than adhere to any ideology -- or to any detailed policy platform -- has, in recent days, demonstrated an incredible willingness to bend his past positions, or abandon them entirely.
Before he became a politician, Donald Trump was disgusted by President Obama's reluctance to classify China as a currency manipulator. As a candidate, Trump vowed to slap the label on China literally on his first day in office.Last month, Trump blasted China as the "grand champions" of currency manipulation. Last week, he called China the "world champion" of currency manipulation. All of which brought us to yesterday, when Trump declared that China isn't manipulating its currency.It was right around this time that Trump, after recently boasting about the NATO alliance being "obsolete," decided that NATO isn't obsolete after all. Justifying his reversal, the president said NATO members "made a change, and now they do fight terrorism." (In reality, NATO did not actually make a change; he just made this up.)These were not isolated incidents. Politico noted overnight that Trump is "shifting positions at breakneck pace."
A Washington Post report added, "Perhaps no politician is a bigger flip-flopper than President Trump."That's not hyperbolic. Just this week, Trump has reversed course on labeling China a currency manipulator, NATO's utility, the administration's hiring freeze, the Export-Import Bank, Janet Yellen's job performance, his preference on interest rates, the White House's interest in paying the national debt, and Trump's willingness to move on from health care to tax reform.The sheer volume of flip-flops is amazing, but so is the time frame: it would take a normal president years to reverse course on this many issues.Trump tweeted last night, "One by one we are keeping our promises." It was an embarrassingly defensive message -- because Trump probably realizes that he's furiously abandoning commitments and promises he made before taking office.The point, of course, is not to simply point and laugh at the meandering White House. Rather, what matters is why Trump and his team keep shifting their positions.I've seen some suggestions that the president is pivoting, changing his positions as part of some kind of White House reboot. I'm afraid that's probably wishful thinking. Trump isn't adapting to changing circumstances or shifting his agenda to become more popular. He's just swinging wildly in the dark, making up a haphazard agenda as he goes along.Chalking this up to some kind of new strategy probably gives Trump and his team too much credit. What we're witnessing is governing chaos, driven by longstanding ignorance and confusion, led by a clumsy president with few core beliefs to help him navigate.As the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne explained this morning, "[G]overning is hard, especially when your principles are as flexible as your relationship with the truth."