Trump’s dizzying display of reversals

It was just over a month ago that we remarked in this space that President Trump was developing a degree of flexibility in his views that seemed worthy of that great Marxist thinker Julius Henry Marx. “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I’ve got others,” Groucho famously offered.

If Trump was showing a certain willingness to bend last month on specifics of health care reform, it was nothing compared to the dizzying display of flip-floppery he put on this week.

It suddenly seems he mixed up which giant nuclear rival represents our biggest threat. Russia and its thuggish leader whom Trump seemed so admiring of are now on the outs because of their support for the thuggish leader of Syria, whose reign of terror Trump will now not abide after warning for years of the folly of intervening there.

Meanwhile, it turns out China, which Trump bashed daily on the campaign trail as a conniving currency manipulator that he would deal harshly with, is actually not devaluing its currency and we are ready for closer relations with the Asian power. What’s more, Trump says it took only 10 minutes in a recent meeting with Chinese President, Xi Jinping for him to realize it wasn’t as easy as he thought for China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The Export-Import Bank should be eliminated, Trump said during the campaign. On Wednesday, he said it turns out it’s incredibly valuable to small US companies.

NATO is a worthless mooch, right? Wrong. It’s now a vitally important alliance.

It was left to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who had quite a fact-challenged week himself, to try to explain Trump’s serial reversals. The best he could come up with?  We are witnessing various “entities or individuals in some cases or issues evolving toward the president’s position,” Spicer said.

The sudden policy convulsions, says the Globe’s Scot Lehigh, are coming because “[r]eality is raining down like baseball-sized hail on the Trump administration, with the wind gusts twirling the president about as though he were a tumbleweed.”

The Globe’s Evan Horowitz says what we are seeing are not exactly policy pivots. “More like a spinning — because on each issue it’s hard to say where exactly Trump is going to end up,” he writes. He suggests something akin to the (Groucho) Marxist outlook as the Trump governing non-philosophy: “Trump isn’t a conventional politician, and he doesn’t have a well-formed set of political preferences.”

Horowitz worries, though, that there is one pattern in many of the flip-flops — a leaning in toward riskier positions and actions.

That’s something Tom Keane picks up on in his less than fully reverent week-in-review column for WBUR’s website. With Trump’s approval numbers ticking up following the missile strike on Syria, Keane asks ominously, “How many bombs does it take to get to 50 percent?”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker has “streamlined” the state’s report on minority hiring so now it’s impossible to find out how his own office is doing. Overall, however, the executive branch is doing well. (CommonWealth)

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg pans a House budget proposal to extend last call at casinos by two hours. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial sees little harm in extending the ability of casinos to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

The MassDevelopment board voted 8-3 not to renew the contract of Marty Jones as CEO. (Lowell Sun)

Since being named to a White House panel on opioid abuse, Gov. Charlie Baker has been reaching out to other states for advice and strategies. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Federal prosecutors said that two City Hall aides charged with extortion were pushing Mayor Marty Walsh’s pro-labor agenda as they argue against a defense motion to dismiss the charges. (Boston Globe)

After more than a year of wrangling to secure land for a Muslim cemetery in Dudley, the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester backs out and says it will use space at a cemetery in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Salem City Council gives final approval to a “Sanctuary for Peace” ordinance, but opponents are gathering signatures to send the issue to the ballot. (Salem News)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s $2 billion capital budget allocates more money to mayoral challenger Tito Jackson’s Roxbury-based city council district than any other district in the city. (Boston Herald)

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans is pushing a cadet program to recruit more minority officers because the default system, which grants a hiring preference to veterans, has made it hard to increase minority representation on the force. (Boston Herald)

An Easton town official quit the search committee for a new town administrator after reports of inflammatory social media postings he had made. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy announces he will not seek a third term at an emotional press conference. (Hartford Courant/Governing)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduces legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational use. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group finds in his latest survey for WBUR that Gov. Charlie Baker is even more popular with Democrats than Republicans in a swath of conservative-leaning communities in Central Massachusetts — a situation that he says may signal some reelection hazards for the state’s Republican leader. (WBUR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new 1,000-room hotel approved for the Seaport district across from the state convention center could feature an ice rink. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Todd Gazda, superintendent of schools in Ludlow, says the state needs to fix its school funding formula. (CommonWealth)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas pushes Senate President Stanley Rosenberg for the job of UMass Boston chancellor, replacing Keith Motley. A Globe editorial says UMass president Marty Meehan now has sole ownership of the mess at the Boston campus.

A Boston Public Schools department paid a consultant $2,000 an hour for services despite a department limit of $40 per hour for such services. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Lawrence General Hospital opens a new $56 million surgery center. (Eagle-Tribune)

An Army veteran becomes the first person in Massachusetts to use a propulsion-power prosthetic ankle. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board makes some tough choices (commuter rail cuts, privatization initiatives) in balancing the transit agency’s fiscal 2018 budget — and, amazingly, the deliberations take place in public. (CommonWealth)

US Rep. Seth Moulton pushes for the North-South Rail Link, a long-shot project that he says would be transformational for the region and his district. (CommonWealth)

Massport selects a subsidiary of New England Development to manage nearly all of the concessions at Logan International Airport. (MassLive)

Milton residents weigh in on the future of trolley service between Ashmont and Mattapan stations that winds through the town. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Five Berkshire County towns oppose General Electric’s plan to dump contaminated soil in a local landfill. They want the dirt shipped to a licensed landfill out of state. (Berkshire Eagle)

Erich Stephens, the CEO of Vineyard Wind, says four contracts for 400 megawatts each would be the best way to promote offshore wind. (South Coast Today)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

John George Jr., a former state rep and Dartmouth selectman who is serving time in jail for embezzlement, was indicted for concealing $2.5 million in cash fro court officials. George was convicted of embezzling money from the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority. (Herald News)

The former superintendent of schools in Southbridge is charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy seven years ago. In 2016, Steven B. Bliss was accused of soliciting sex over the internet, but those charges were dropped. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

WGBH and local television station owner Ed Ansin will collect multimillion-dollar windfalls as part of an FCC auction of airwave frequency rights to accommodate the needs of wireless signal carriers. (Boston Globe)

Channel 25 will drop the use of “Fox” as part of its local newscast name as the brand’s stock falls, particularly in the liberal-leaning Boston area. (Boston Globe)

FBI director James Comey warns Americans about fake news. (Time)