So Donald Trump now says, in an interview with the New York Times, that he believes there is some connection between human activity and climate change, that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted and that, after one conversation with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, he might be having second thoughts about waterboarding. One might wonder why he didn’t have that conversation during the campaign or why he pounded home the opposite views on all these topics for a year and a half. But at this point, it doesn’t matter. Trump is president-elect. We should all hope that he flip-flops some more.
In this spirit, let me outline a few news stories that I hope we will see over the next few weeks.
●“Donald Trump wants to keep Iran deal: The president-elect has come to realize that the agreement with Iran has blocked that country’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, were the United States to pull out, no other country would reimpose sanctions, so it would simply hurt American businesses. ‘I hadn’t focused so much on the benefits of the deal,’ Trump said.”
●“ ‘We have been bombing the s--- out of ISIS,’ says Trump: The president-elect described a phone conversation with President Obama in which he learned that the United States and its coalition partners have conducted more than 16,000 airstrikes on the Islamic State. ‘That’s a lot,’ said Trump, noting that in Syria, the Obama administration had been focused on defeating the Islamic State and not on deposing President Bashar al-Assad. ‘They have been doing what I suggested all along,’ he noted proudly.”
●“Trumpcare will be a ‘terrific’ improvement on Obamacare: The Trump administration plans to propose a health-care bill that will require insurance companies to enroll people with preexisting conditions. In return, the companies will gain millions of new customers, since people will now face a mandate to buy health insurance or else face a $10,000 fine — much higher than under Obamacare. ‘I figured out, like with houses or cars, insurance can’t work unless we’re all in,’ explained the president-elect.”
●“New administration to scale back tax breaks for the rich: Donald Trump said that once his friends Carl Icahn and Wilbur Ross crunched the numbers on his tax plan, they realized that it would explode the federal deficit. So he has put forward a new plan that simplifies the code but cuts taxes only for the middle class. ‘These are policies aimed to help the forgotten Americans,’ he explained. ‘I don’t need a tax cut.’ ”
●“Trump plans to limit deportations: The Trump administration is going to proceed slowly and carefully with the deportation of undocumented workers. ‘If we deport millions of these people, industries such as construction and agriculture would collapse and we would have a big recession. How does that help the American worker?’ asked Trump.”
●“Donald Trump announces sale of the Trump Organization: The president-elect said that he decided that people deserved a president without even the hint of conflicts of interest and so has decided to sell all his companies, put the proceeds in a multibillion-dollar charitable trust and ask his children to run it. ‘If they want to get back into business, I will give them each a few million to get started, just like my father gave me.’ ”
Okay, that last one is total fantasy. On the others, I don’t know whether they will happen, but if they do, that would be great for America. I know that many people who opposed Trump’s election want him to fail. I don’t. It’s much better for the country and the world if Trump does well in the White House. That is not “normalizing” him, as some worry, but recognizing that the situation is what it is and trying to hope for the best. When Trump does things I disagree with, I will loudly protest. (For example, his refusal to properly separate himself from his businesses is truly unconscionable and makes the country look like a banana republic.) But if he ends up doing things that are sensible, I will cheer.
Trump has a unique opportunity. A vast number of Americans are deeply distrustful of elites in Washington and New York. They believe that there are simple solutions to the problems that the United States faces, and they resent the country’s engagement with the world, which they see as harming ordinary Americans. These people have put their faith in Trump. If Trump can help make them understand some of the realities of the world and the constraints on government, that would be a huge step forward. If Trump tells his followers that the Paris agreement on climate change is worth preserving or that NATO is crucial for global stability, they might actually listen.