Politicians change their positions. It is called doing a “flip flop” and it is not unusual. They have to flip flop to as times change. So, Hilary flip-flopped on gay marriage. But I have not seen anything like the flip-flops we just saw from the Trumpster.
Campaigning Trump. The Chinese are eating our lunch. I will get tough with them and eat their lunch.
President Trump – The Chinese can have our lunch. They are great partners in dealing with North Korea.
Campaign Trump: NATO is obsolete. Russia is cool
President Trump: NATO is cool Russia is a problem.
Of course, this makes a mockery of the election. Folks who voted forTrump are not getting the Trump that they voted for.
Using negotiating parlance, Trump has put traditional US foreign policy positions “in play”. Trump the wheeler and dealer is trying to take center stage. Will this result in a better world? No doubt it has foreign leaders taking a fresh look at the chess board. But will this get us anywhere? My own sense is that US policies towards Europe, China, and Russia were set fo reasons. They were not just the result of prior failures to do better deals. If so, that same logic will apply after the dust settles. In other words, Trump is learning on the job to discover those reasons, and we will get to pay for the fun.
We might keep in mind that foreign leaders are well aware of Trump’s disastrous approval ratings. They are also aware of Trump’s serial failures on the domestic policy front. They know, therefore, that Trump is not dealing from a position of strength as a president. They know that they can further weaken him, if they choose to, by refusing to deal. And Trump will have limited options in trying to force them to the bargaining table.
There is one more thing. If Trump has shown us anything so far, it is that he is good at creating distractions. These regularly turn out to be baloney (like his assertions that Obama was not born in the US and that Obama wiretapped Trump Towers). But that is not the point. The distractions have a purpose – to deflect attention from damaging issues. The negotiating tactic is called “anchoring”.
Trump is now anchoring our attention on China, Russia, and other stuff. Why? Trump’s approval ratings are in the tank for good reason. The regular stream of news that he is incompetent, lazy, self-interested, and connected to Russian spooks— if not one himself — creates a dreadful narrative. Trump wants to change that narrative with something that he can call a major foreign policy success. Using a baseball metaphor, he is swinging for the fences, and it is only the first inning of play. As you might know, swinging for the fences significantly increases the chances of striking out.
In light of all the above, I tend to doubt whether the Trump flip flops will produce any great deals. Behind the smoke and mirrors are more smoke and mirrors. And if deals appear? Read the fine print. This dude would gladly hock the crown jewels to get a bounce in the polls.