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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump policies so far a mix of certainty and murkiness

President Donald Trump hosts a reception for House

President Donald Trump hosts a reception for House and Senate leaders in the the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. Credit: AP

Certain White House actions so far seem clear and decisive enough.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order announcing his plan to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) praised the pact’s demise. It was the one area they agreed on last year.

Trump also ordered a freeze on hiring for nonsecurity federal positions, which led to predictions by some that various government functions could be disrupted.

But looking ahead, many may wonder exactly what the U.S. is getting with the Trump administration.

He pledged during the campaign that entitlements wouldn’t be decimated, in a break from the fiscal austerity stances of rival Republicans. But Trump also is looking to fund Medicaid through block grants to the states. That leads to complicated questions of how much each state will get, what happens if a recession forces higher enrollments, and so on.

The impact on citizens is too hazy to predict.

Before taking office, Trump issued harsh criticism of the CIA, comparing its tactics at one point with Nazis’. Then, over the weekend, he went to CIA headquarters and professed his love for its personnel, and trashed the news media for having reported what he’d said and done.

Is he planning to restructure the intelligence agencies as earlier rumored? Nobody seems to be able to say.

The president vowed repeatedly during the campaign to take the symbolic and controversial step of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But on Sunday his press secretary, Sean Spicer, said in a statement: “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”

Some might have hoped that Trump’s insistence during the campaign — against all evidence — that he’d opposed the Iraq War meant a commitment to a less interventionist policy in the Mideast. But on Saturday he said perhaps the U.S. should have “kept” Iraqi oil facilities — and “maybe we’ll have another chance.”

Given Trump’s loose patter, which varies from one audience to the next, that statement could mean something big is in the works.

Or, it could mean absolutely nothing is in the works.

The bright side: Self-contradiction could give the man great flexibility when it comes to future policies.

Perhaps he is playing good cop, bad cop alongside Congress with American industry when he talks about imposing heavy taxes on companies that move jobs overseas — taxes that the GOP majority opposes.

What will the result be?

His office shifts tactics. With the news media, for example, spokesman Sean Spicer seemed on Monday to convert a previous performance — in which he lied about crowd size at the inaugural ceremonies — to a softer, smilier complaint that his boss isn’t given enough credit. Trump on Saturday had called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

Which way will the administration winds blow tomorrow? Check back then.


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