This post has been updated with the president's latest flip-flop.
You can say this for President Trump: Unlike most other politicians, he's totally at peace with changing his mind at any given moment, with very little explanation.
We've also noticed that some of his biggest flip-flops on a key issue of his issue happen immediately after he's talked to a person directly involved on the other side.
1. On whether to pull out of NAFTA
Trump shortly after his inauguration: “NAFTA has been a terrible deal, a total disaster for the United States from its inception,” he told congressional Republicans.
Trump on Wednesday, after talking to the other world leaders in the free trade agreement and after seeing a map unfurled by his advisers of where American workers would be hurt most if he ended the trade deal:
I received calls from the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate. I agreed..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2017
...subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA. Relationships are good-deal very possible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2017
2. On labeling China a currency manipulator
Trump during the campaign: He promised to do this on day one, arguing that it would force China to adhere to the same currency standards the United States does and thus make the trade playing field more even. (Many economists say that theory is outdated, but that's another story.)
Trump earlier in April, a few days after meeting with China's president: “They're not currency manipulators,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
3. On whether China's doing enough to tame North Korea
China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
After talking to the Chinese president in mid-April: “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” he told the Journal of China's dynamic with North Korea. " … I felt pretty strongly that had a tremendous power. But it's not what you would think.”
4. On NATO's usefulness
Trump during the campaign: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of some 28 European and North American countries, is “obsolete.”
In April at a joint news conference with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: “I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete.”
5. On whether the Export-Import Bank should stay or go
Trump during the campaign: It's “unnecessary,” he said, siding with conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) who think the quasi-government agency that helps finance U.S. business exports and projects abroad is “crony capitalism.”
Trump now: “Instinctively, you would say, ‘Isn’t that a ridiculous thing,'" he told the Wall Street Journal in that interview. “But actually, it’s a very good thing.”
The Journal later reported Trump changed his mind after meeting earlier this year with Dennis Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, whose company is a beneficiary of the bank's work: The CEO “explained to him what role the bank plays, according to people familiar with the matter.”
6. On how easy repealing the Affordable Care Act would be
Trump during the campaign: “I think disaster. … It should be repealed and replaced, and if I'm elected, we're going to repeal it, replace it with something much better, much better and much less expensive.”
Trump after meeting with insurance chief executives after being inaugurated: “Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject,” he said while addressing Republican governors. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
7. On the use of torture
Trump during the campaign: “Torture works,” he said during the campaign and shortly after being inaugurated.
President-elect Trump after interviewing his now-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for the job: The New York Times got Trump's thoughts afterward about Mattis and torture: “He said, “I've never found it to be useful. Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I'll do better. I was very impressed by that answer. Torture, he said, is 'not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.'”
Addendum: At a news conference his first week in office, Trump reconciled the differences: “I happen to feel that it does work. I’ve been open about that for a long period of time. But I am going with our leaders. And we’re going to — we’re going to win with or without, but I do disagree.”
8. On the “failing New York Times”
Trump, dozens of times during and after the campaign:
No wonder the @nytimes is failing—who can believe what they write after the false, malicious & libelous story they did on me.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2016
Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the "Trump phenomena"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2016
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Trump, at the end of sitting down with the Times shortly after his election: He called the paper “a great, great American jewel.”
Trump's advisers don't seem to think any of these flagrant flip-flops are a problem. He's a new president, he's new to politics, he's new to governing. Of course he's going to hear other views out. Here's new reporting from WaPo's ace White House team:
One former Trump aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said that the president is known to form initial opinions based on instinct but later to change his stance based on new information and the influence of his advisers.
“He has a general reaction to something, then after he does a lot more homework on the situation, he can change his view,” the former adviser said. “The reason most of these voters voted on him was less because of the core issues, it was more based on the Trump decision-making, the Trump judgment.”
But especially lately, the Trump judgment seems quite amenable based on whom he's talking to.