WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump hasn’t been in the White House for 100 days, yet he’s already reversed himself on many of his key campaign promises.
In several interviews this week, the president has forged new positions on topics ranging from NATO to Chinese currency manipulation. They come as other campaign promises lag, including Trump’s vow to build a concrete wall along the length of the southern border and have Mexico pay for it.
“One by one we are keeping our promises – on the border, on energy, on jobs, on regulations,” Trump tweeted Wednesday evening. “Big changes are happening!”
Here are some of the areas where a president who prides himself on his flexibility has been willing to dispense with past positions:
Trump cemented his shift in posture toward the 28-nation military alliance as he stood alongside its leader at the White House on Wednesday.
As a candidate, Trump had dismissed NATO as “obsolete,” saying the post-World War II organization wasn’t focused on combating the growing threat from terrorism and complaining that too many members weren’t paying their fair share toward defence.
OPINION: Donald Trump is stuck in the 1980s
He struck an entirely different tone Wednesday, one he had been warming up to during frequent telephone conversations with his world counterparts.
“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said of NATO at a news conference with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after they met in the Oval Office.
Trump still insists that NATO members meet a 2014 agreement to boost defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product within a decade. He has backup on this point from an important ally: Stoltenberg.
Currently, just the U.S. and a handful of other countries are meeting the 2 per cent target.
Labeling China a currency manipulator
During his campaign, Trump insisted that one of his first acts as president would be to direct his treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator. It was part of a “contract” with American voters that he pledged to fulfil.
Only days ago, in an interview with the Financial Times, Trump reiterated that campaign pledge.
“You know when you talk about, when you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations, they are world champions,” he said of China. “And our country hasn’t had a clue, they haven’t had a clue.”
By Wednesday something had changed. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump declared point blank, “They’re not currency manipulators.”
Trump told the paper he’d changed his mind because China hasn’t been manipulating its currency for months. He said a U.S. declaration of Chinese manipulation could jeopardize efforts to secure the country’s help in containing the threat posed by North Korea.
U.S. Export-import bank
Trump also appears to have grown fond of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has been a rallying cry for conservatives who consider it a mechanism of crony capitalism. The conservative political network established by billionaires Charles and David Koch has railed against the agency.
Trump opposed the Ex-Im Bank during his campaign. But he said in the Journal interview that he supports the bank, which helps U.S. exporters by making and guaranteeing loans. Congress allowed the Ex-Im bank’s charter to expire in 2015, then eventually revived it over the objections of some conservatives. But it still isn’t able to conduct major business due to vacancies on its board, hurting top exporters like Boeing and General Electric.
Trump told the newspaper he plans to fill two vacancies on the board, adding, “It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin
As the U.S. relationship with Russia careens from cozy to frosty, Trump is keeping his distance from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I don’t know Putin,” Trump said Wednesday at the joint press conference with Stoltenberg.
Trump has made conflicting statements about his ties to the Russian leader in the past. At a press conference last July, he said: “I never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius.”
But during the Republican primary he boasted of their ties. He said at a November 2015 primary debate, “I got to know him very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.” The two appeared on the same program, but their segments were taped in different countries.
Trump had also previously said the pair met once, a “long time ago.”
For Trump, dealing with investigations into possible contacts between his campaign associates and the Russian officials, keeping Putin at arm’s length may be the best political play.
U.S. military prowess
The man who once slammed the U.S. military as a “disaster” is singing its praises now that he’s in charge.
In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that aired Wednesday morning, Trump talked up U.S. military strength, sounding almost in awe of its prowess.
“It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five,” he said. “I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.”
Just a couple of months ago, the president was bemoaning the military’s state at rallies across the country.
“We’re going to rebuild out military. Our military is in shambles,” he said at a rally in Delaware last April. “We’re going to make it so big, so strong, so powerful that nobody, nobody, nobody is gonna mess with us, folks.”
Federal reserve chair Janet Yellen
During his campaign, Trump was critical of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, accusing her of keeping borrowing rates low to help rival Hillary Clinton and Democrats. Trump said at the time that he would likely replace Yellen when her term as chair ends next year. At the first presidential debate in September, Trump said the Fed was “being more political than Secretary Clinton.”
But that was then. Trump, in the Wall Street Journal interview, left open the possibility of re-nominating Yellen for a second four-year term. Asked whether Yellen would be “toast” when her term ends, Trump said, “No, not toast.”
“I like her, I respect her,” Trump said, adding that they had met in the Oval Office since he became president.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.