Opinion writer

President Trump in Brentwood, New York, on July 28. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump in his speech on Afghanistan last night had to explain his about-face on the war. He said, “All my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States.” Perhaps both he and Republicans in Congress can take this to heart and thereby stop adhering to ridiculous positions because they promised unattainable things and told so many lies in the campaign.

If Trump can decide he was wrong on Afghanistan, maybe he could decide he was wrong on a bunch of other things:

  • Trying to destroy Obamacare when he has no better alternative. (He can fix Obamacare and declare himself a hero.)
  • Engaging in trade protectionism, rather than fessing up that expanded trade is essential and that automation, not trade, caused job loss.
  • Thinking a wall would reduce or eliminate illegal immigration on the southern border.
  • Pledging to deport millions of people living in the United States, which would shrink the economy, create massive economic and social upheaval, and destroy families.
  • Thinking we can “get along” with Russia (otherwise known as appeasement), even though Russia’s conduct precludes us “getting along” with a hostile power.
  • Propounding the nonsensical “America first” policy, a dog whistle for isolationists that in practice is impossible to apply.
  • Blaming illegal immigrants for crime when there is no factual evidence to support that.
  • Suggesting that an outsider with no expertise or intellectual curiosity can function as president, when he’s essentially turned his presidency over to generals and Goldman Sachs billionaires.
  • Denigrating climate change science even though the evidence of man-made climate change is irrefutable and denying reality makes him look foolish, even to energy-company executives.
  • Claiming massive voting fraud is possible when there is no evidence to support such an outlandish claim, which if taken to its extreme might mean he didn’t win the states needed for him to reach 270 electoral votes.
  • Arguing that allies are taking advantage of us (and should be forced to pay up) when in fact every policy decision, including Afghanistan, Iran and fighting Islamic terrorism, relies on help from allies.
  • Denying that Russia attempted to interfere with the election on his behalf even though we have conclusive evidence it did; that multiple connections existed between his campaign and Russian officials; that his own son welcomed help from Russian operatives; and that Russian social media echoed and amplified his own campaign themes.
  • Promising that coal jobs would return when they plainly cannot.
  • Telling white working-class Americans with no college education that they are victims of malicious, largely foreign forces, and lack agency and the means by which they can improve their own lives.
  • Pretending the media are the enemies of the state when it is he who makes up facts, relies on Internet hoaxes and refuses to admit to any evidence that contradicts his falsehoods.

You see, just like on Afghanistan, his pronouncements on virtually everything else have been irresponsible, false, unworkable or morally repugnant — or all of the above. If he can gain a measure of political respectability by reversing himself on something as critical as the Afghanistan war, why not do so across the board? He can rightly claim he was ill-prepared for the presidency and has now learned that his head was filled with garbage from the Internet and from too many hours watching Fox News charlatans. Hey, his true believers can pretend that he held his new positions all along, while others can celebrate his conversion to reality. It might work better than the course he’s been on, which would leave him at most as a one-term president with the distinction of being the worst president in American history.