Most of them don’t seem particularly bothersome on the merits or very surprising. In general, I think it’s best for politicians to say what they will do during campaigns and stick it as much as possible as a sheer matter of democratic accountability. But the Peter Thiel gloss on Trump always seemed pretty apt–his supporters take him seriously, not literally. We are now learning, or getting confirmation of, how much shouldn’t have been taken literally.
Trump has admitted the wall won’t extend across the entire border, but a border wall in remote areas never made any sense and the point of employment is more important to enforcement than the border. Trump won’t appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton, but it was always hard to imagine a victorious Trump pursuing his vanquished rival, especially when she would have already paid a stark political price for her email set-up. Trump says Gen. Mattis may have convinced him that waterboarding doesn’t work. Here, I think it’s a mistake to rule out waterboarding in high-stakes scenarios, but it was never going to be revived to be used as extensively as Trump suggested in his rhetoric.
The most consequential and worrisome flip-flop comes on global warming. Trump now says there’s “some connectivity” between human activity and global warming, an entirely reasonable position, and one that doesn’t entail embracing alarmism or draconian policies. But it is disturbing that he is wavering on the Paris Accords. A change here would be highly consequential and very unwelcome.