The White House claimed Thursday that President Donald Trump hasn’t shifted any policy positions, despite in recent days backing away from an array of campaign pledges.
Standing alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, for example, Trump declared Wednesday that NATO is no longer “obsolete,” as he repeatedly said on the campaign trail.
Not just that: In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, the president said he no longer sees China as a currency manipulator, expressed support for the Export-Import Bank and reversed his views on the Federal Reserve’s low-interest rate policy. Those transformations followed Trump’s ordering of missiles in response to the Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, where Trump had urged former President Barack Obama to stay out of.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer framed policy changes as not a shift in the president’s position but an evolution to the president’s position, suggesting Trump is the stable force around which a series of issues are gravitating to.
“If you look at what’s happened, it’s those entities or individuals in some cases or issues evolving towards the president’s position,” Spicer said.
He pointed to NATO as the most illustrative example. Trump persistently dogged the organization, arguing that members don’t pair their fair share and the organization as a whole “doesn’t discuss terrorism” and isn’t “meant” for counterterrorism.
“He talked about the need for NATO to focus more on terrorism. NATO has done just that,” Spicer said, failing to note that NATO has played an active role in combating terrorism for decades, including the deployment of troops in Afghanistan, where the Defense Department on Thursday dropped a massive non-nuclear bomb targeting Islamic State tunnels.
“He talked about the fact that NATO is moving towards what he has been calling for,” Spicer said. “And I think in some cases … it’s not just a clear and fast statement that this is — that the entity itself is moving towards his or the issue is evolving towards the position that he articulated, and that can’t be proven more true in the case of NATO, where he laid out two very clear positions that he had an issue with NATO and as far as back as September of last year started to recognize that institution was moving much more towards his position.”
Spicer, however, would only focus on the shift on NATO, failing to answer the question of whether Trump has any policy positions that are non-negotiable.
“I think you look at the president’s position, where he wanted to see NATO in particular evolve to and it’s moving exactly in the direction that he said it was in terms of its goals, of increasing the amount of participation from other member countries,” Spicer said. “And two is having a greater focus on terrorism, something that was reinforced by the secretary general himself when he was here. I think when you look at these issues and you recognize the direction in which they’re moving, they’re moving in a direction that the president stated very clearly.”