Look who’s pals with the Muslims now!
After famously snarling that “Islam hates us” and campaigning for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, Donald Trump stood before the world’s Muslim leaders and sounded almost like a normal American president.
The fight against terror “is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” he said Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the first stop of his first overseas trip as president. “This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it.”
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The less bombastic tone was instantly welcomed around the world and at home. Trump didn’t quite apologize — this president never apologizes — for the overheated rhetoric that helped elect him. But reading the careful words that staffers had clearly written, the only question was how much of it he actually believed.
One of two things explained the more measured tone: Either Trump has come to understand that it makes no sense to continue alienating America’s Muslim allies, our best defense against future acts of terror — or, in a desperate quest for face-to-face approval, he just can’t stand not to be liked by whosever’s sitting across from him.
We’ve seen this movie before.
Trump campaigned against NATO as “obsolete” until NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg showed up in Washington. Suddenly, everything changed. "I said it was obsolete,” the president said of the key Atlantic alliance. “It's no longer obsolete.”
Similarly, Trump claimed China was "raping" the U.S. economy and vowed to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. Then, Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Mar-a-Lago, where he wasn’t served the Big Mac that Trump had once promised. Over the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake ever, the rape talk was history, and China was “not a currency manipulator” anymore.
The flips just keep flopping, often though not always because of physical proximity: Fed chair Janet Yellen (from bad to good), FBI Director James Comey (from good to bad), Barack Obama (bad to good to bad again), Megyn Kelly (bad, good, bad), Vladimir Putin (good to bad to good to better to great to God knows what’s coming next).
Whatever. He certainly sounded less hateful yesterday. These days, I’m taking what I can get.
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is a veteran journalist, best-selling author and frequent commentator on CNN and other TV networks. Follow him on Twitter @henican.