As displayed in his foreign policy speech today, Donald Trump has the populist’s penchant for supporting what he has opposed and opposing what he has supported. Rather than coherent principles, he relies on his sense of what the public wants to hear at any given moment.
Thus, as I detail in a column reacting to the speech, Trump supported the Obama/Clinton strategy of toppling Qaddafi in Libya, but now blames that strategy for the rise of ISIS; he supported the 2003 Iraq invasion, though he has claimed throughout the campaign to have been dead set against it (in fact, before the invasion his only regret was that it should have happened in 1991); and he has somehow simultaneously opposed both (a) an invasion of Syria for the purpose of removing Assad, and (b) President Obama’s failure to defend the “line in the sand” drawn against Assad’s use of WMD – defense of which would have called for invading Syria and removing Assad.
There is much more to be said about Trump’s meanderings, but the degree to which his current avidly held positions are contradicted by his past avidly held positions is startling. Another example: In his speech, Trump thundered: “President Obama has weakened our economy” and “crippled us” by, among other things, “wasteful spending, massive debt, [and] low growth[.]” True enough … yet this is the same Donald Trump who supported the bank bailouts, the auto company bailouts, and the stimulus package, all the while steadfastly opposing any effort to reform unsustainably expensive entitlement programs and continuing to recommend higher taxes on “the rich.” (See, e.g., here and here.) And that is to say nothing of Trump’s oft-avowed preference for a government-run healthcare system (which he now claims to oppose), and his current proposal of a prohibitively expensive scheme in which he would first pointlessly deport eleven million illegal aliens only to then bring them back into the country processed as legal aliens – a touch-back amnesty plan he touts while portraying himself (and somehow being accepted by his supporters as) the scourge of illegal immigration.
What makes Trump supporters confident that what he is saying today is what he’d be doing a year from now if elected?