President Trump’s unpredictability is paying dividends for the United States abroad as his administration tries to reshape the nation’s role in the world, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.
Corker, who once dubbed the White House an “adult day care center” and said Trump's behavior was setting the nation on a path to "World War III," offered a mostly complimentary assessment Wednesday of the president's performance in a panel discussion moderated by Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“The president and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. . . . On the other hand, I’ve seen where that unpredictability has been helpful in negotiations,” Corker said.
“He has done an incredible job of rallying the animal spirits in our country, there’s no question,” Corker said. The senator pointed to the tax cut package — to which Trump lent critical support — and deregulation as moves primed to boost economic growth.
The Tennessee Republican traded barbs with Trump several times last year, telling reporters in October that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “help separate our country from chaos.”
On Wednesday, Corker said Tillerson has found his footing after a year in which he frequently saw his diplomatic efforts undercut by Trump’s decisions — a disconnect that Corker last October said was, in his word, castrating the secretary of state.
And he suggested that Tillerson might not be headed for the exits, as has long been speculated in Washington, elaborating that the former ExxonMobil chief has found something of a “reprieve” after a rocky first year. “I think he feels more secure in his job today and there’s been more of a sync-up,” Corker said.
Corker announced in September that he would not seek reelection when his term ends in 2018.
And he pointed to Trump's skepticism of the Iran nuclear agreement as a case in which the president's seemingly mercurial nature has been helpful to U.S. policy.
“I think the fact that they know that this president may well wake up one day and just shred” the agreement, Corker said, noting that he's not in favor of that option, has grabbed the attention of U.S. allies. “Our European allies are far more interested in talking with us about what we might do as the result of the fact that we have a person who they know is somewhat unpredictable in this way,” he added.
Corker added that there are other times when Trump's unpredictability “can work to our disadvantage.”
The senator was also fairly blunt when asked about the administration's controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Vice President Pence visited Israel this week.
“When he has friends, he goes all out … in many cases, not really asking for very much in return,” Corker stated. “I don’t think any commitments were made on the side of Israel.”