Over the past week, President Trump -- who campaigned as a non-interventionist, called NATO "obsolete" and the Chinese a bunch of "cheaters" -- has decided to bomb Syria and Afghanistan, declared that NATO is "no longer obsolete" and determined that China should not be labeled a currency manipulator after all.
To top it off, he called journalists "very honorable people," after previously referring to them as "the world's most dishonest people" and "the lowest form of life."
What is going on?
At campaign rallies, Trump had a media-bashing routine: He would point to the assembled reporters and introduce them to his crowd with something like this: “These people are among the most dishonest people I've ever met, spoken to, done business with.” (That's a quote from a Nov. 2 rally.)
On Thursday, while meeting with first responders at the White House, Trump changed it up. He pointed to journalists, as he always does, and introduced them, as he always does, but he said something unusual: "You know these folks back here. They're very famous, most of them. It's called the media. They're very honorable people."
Trump did slip in a qualifier — “you are more honorable,” he told the first responders — but it was still a surprisingly gracious moment.
The president's record suggests it will be a fleeting moment, too.
Trump has appeared, at times, to pivot toward a tamer approach to media relations but has always reverted to hostility.
In September, he ended his practice of blacklisting certain news outlets, including The Washington Post.
“I figure they can't treat me any worse!” Trump told CNN at the time.
Publications that had been denied credentials to campaign events were granted access over the final two months of the race, but Trump seldom spoke to outlets other than Fox News down the stretch and only escalated his anti-media rhetoric, accusing the press of “rigging” the election.
In late October, it looked like Trump might finally leave the relative safety of his Fox News bubble. In a single day, he appeared on CNN, ABC and Bloomberg News. It proved to be a fluke, however.
After winning, Trump invited TV anchors and executives to an off-the-record meeting at Trump Tower in what looked like an extension of an olive branch. Instead, Trump used the occasion to angrily air his grievances from the campaign.
A subsequent meeting with New York Times journalists went better. Trump concluded the session by calling the newspaper “a great, great American jewel.”
Shortly after his inauguration, however, Trump returned to slamming the “failing” New York Times on Twitter.
The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2017
This is Trump's pattern: flashes of cordiality, followed by long stretches of fury.
The president's policy reversals could be more long-lasting. His politics have always seemed malleable, which is why the conservative National Review called him “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist” last year. His recent statements and actions don't square with what he said and did during the campaign, but he never seemed totally committed to many of his positions, anyway.
Trump has been remarkably consistent about trashing the media, however. There is little reason to think he will change this time, either.