04/17/2017

In Trump’s Government-by-Applause, All Bets Are Off

Ben Shapiro, National Review

The president’s lack of ideology means he’s driven by a craving for the approval of others, as his airstrike in Syria showed.

The president who proclaimed that he was a rock, he was an island, sure seems to be shifting a lot.

Donald Trump has now flip-flopped on Chinese currency manipulation (he no longer believes it’s happening); North Korea (he now says the Chinese don’t have the power to oust Kim Jong Un); Syria (Bashar al-Assad must now go); chemical-weapons use (Assad is now a “butcher”); the Export-Import Bank (he suddenly favors it, after a campaign spent opposing it it); NATO (it’s no longer “obsolete”); and Fed chair Janet Yellin (he once thought her a nefarious operator; now he thinks she’s great).

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, when asked recently to explain all these dizzying about-faces, said, “If you look at what’s happened, it’s those entities or individuals in some cases — or issues — evolving toward the president’s position.” In other words, reality changed to reflect Trump, as the planets circle the sun.

Okay, then. But what’s really going on? There are two theories.

The first theory: Reality hit Trump like a freight train. His campaign rhetoric simply couldn’t stand up to the light of day. It was one thing to jocularly dismiss human-rights atrocities as none of America’s business while speaking to crowds in rural Ohio, but the leader of the free world typically feels the weight of responsibility when pictures of dead children crop up on the television.

The second theory: Trump has fallen prey to nefarious actors bent on hijacking his presidency. Those who brought him to the White House are being systematically sidelined by these clever operators. After President Trump decided to bomb Syria in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people, many of his most ardent supporters leaned heavily on this theory. “Trump’s Syrian misadventure is immoral, violates every promise he ran on and could sink his presidency,” Ann Coulter wrote. She also blamed those surrounding the president — rather than the president himself — for the decision: “Left to his own devices, uncontaminated by Washington group-think, Trump gets it right.”

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