In government as in golf, it’s never too soon for a mulligan.
I can’t report how many do-overs Donald Trump took on the links in Palm Beach with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Mar-a-Lago security men taped black plastic over the windows to block the news media’s view. But this much is clear for anyone to see: An ever-growing roster of Trump slogans and promises is now being speed-edited by reality.
The most glaring one: White House staffers are frantically redrafting the botched Muslim ban blocked by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The “brand new order” could be ready as early as today. But that’s just a warm-up.
The big question going forward is who or what Trump’s next mulligan will be. The “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, now sounding more and more like a rebrand? The president’s impetuous Two Chinas policy, hardly mentioned since one chummy post-election phone call with the president of Taiwan? Is one of these the next oh-never-mind?
Could it be the truth-challenged national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, who first insisted he didn’t talk sanctions with the Russian ambassador–and now pleads selective memory loss? Is General Flynn tomorrow’s mulligan?
When it comes to necessary re-dos, there are so many ripe possibilities. The increasingly pricey Border Wall, which Mexico still won’t pay for? The claim that 3 million “illegals” voted in an election that Donald Trump won. Any evidence yet? The sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration that will apply to—wait, who will it apply to? Anyone here without papers? Only serious criminals? Muslims from some nations or from many?
Everything is open to reinterpretation except for this: When you have a president who speaks by tweet and governs by gut emotion, no view is forever and no decision can’t be undone.
It was fascinating, I thought, to watch the reaction when North Korea leader Kim Jong-un sent a special bread-and-butter gift to Trump and Abe’s golf-and-get-to-know-you weekend—a mid-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. “It won’t happen” gave way immediately to the mildest platitude: “The United States of America stands behind Japan, a great ally, 100 percent, thank you.”
Anyone ready to call another mulligan?
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is a seasoned observer of the nation’s political and social landscape. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.