Amid all of the dizzying headlines over the last month of the Trump administration, you'd be forgiven if you missed one common theme in all those bad headlines. President Donald Trump -- Mr. Never Apologize, or back down or admit you're wrong -- has kinda, sorta done all of those things.
On issue after issue, Trump, faced with public outrage, media scrutiny, and yes, even Republican criticism, has reversed course.
It has been Trump's almost apology tour.
On the separation of families at the border, a policy the administration said was a deterrent, Trump held firm as public outrage grew, until he didn't. There, in the Oval Office, he signed an executive order reversing his own administration's policy. That is called backing down.
On the international stage, while Trump felt free to criticize British Prime Minister Theresa May's approach to Brexit to a tabloid reporter, when he met her face-to-face, he was sorta sorry.
"Because when I saw her this morning I said, 'I want to apologize, I want to apologize,' because I said such good things about you. She said: 'Don't worry, it was only the press.' I thought that was very professional," Trump told reporters.
A few other examples:
- In his Helsinki presser with Putin, Trump said "would." But later, in an "oops, my bad" admission, Trump said he really meant to say "wouldn't." As in, why wouldn't it be Russia that interfered in the 2016 election?
- The President woke up Wednesday declaring how awesome tariffs are and went to bed Wednesday night having announced no additional tariffs on EU goods -- and that the current tariff fight was headed toward resolution. (This came a day after Trump told an audience that the trade fight would be long ... after he previously said it would be easy.)
- And what about the Putin-Trump sequel, set for this fall at the White House? Not happening now. The White House announced Wednesday that it will now happen "after the first of the year" once the "Russia witch hunt is over," according to a statement issued by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton.
Trump's reversals come at one of the most active period in his tenure so far, with high-stakes plays on the global stage, and on domestic issues, such as immigration and the economy. His all-in strategy -- and his walk backs -- come as his party faces stiff headwinds this November.
A new NBC News/Marist poll shows him struggling in three key Midwestern states with a majority of voters saying he doesn't deserve re-election and that Congress needs to be a check on his power.
Republicans want a "peace and prosperity" message for the midterms, but tariffs and saber-rattling (see Iran tweet), complicate that. Not to mention the Russia investigation and the Cohen tapes.
But it turns out, Trump can exercise the political skill of contrition.
"I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey, I was wrong,' " he said in June, about having faith in Kim Jung Un's commitment to denuclearization. "I don't know I'll ever admit that. I'll find some excuse."
These last weeks, Trump has essentially admitted he was wrong, on issue after issue, and going forward, it will be hard to find believable excuses. Though in classic Trump style, he already seems to have one ready for the midterms. If Democrats win, it's the Russians.
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