Want to change Trump’s mind on policy? Be the last one who talks to him.
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.
But where are these sudden changes coming from? Is it for a desire to moderate his populist policies? Is he suddenly reading briefing books? Or could it be that the president simply amenable to the last person he talked to?
On that last point, some have noticed that some of his biggest flip-flops on a key issue happen immediately after he’s talked to a person directly involved on the other side.
1. 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.
Trump on Wednesday, days after meeting with China’s president: ‘‘They’re not currency manipulators,’’ he told The Wall Street Journal.
2. On whether China’s doing enough to tame North Korea
Trump tweeted: China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!
After talking to the Chinese president last week: ‘‘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.’’
3. 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.’’
On Wednesday, at a joint news conference with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: ‘‘I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete.’’
4. On how easy repealing the Affordable Care Act
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 It should be repealed and replaced, and if I’m elected, we’re going to repeal it, replace it with something much better, much better and much less expensive.’’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.’’
5. 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.’’
6. On the ‘‘failing New York Times’’
Trump tweeted: No wonder the @nytimes is failing-who can believe what they write after the false, malicious & libelous story they did on me.
Trump, at the end of sitting down with the Times shortly after his election: He called the paper ‘‘a great, great American jewel.’’
Also this Thursday: Trump introduced the media as ‘‘very honorable people’’
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.