Rex Tillerson: Trump's views on Islam are evolving and will continue to evolve

Rex Tillerson: Trump's views on Islam are evolving and will continue to evolve

Odds that Trump utters the words “Islam means peace” before the end of his term: 40 percent. Maybe 50 after the Saudis plastered his picture all over Riyadh this week.

Good question via Ross Douthat: “Donald Trump — dhimmi or cuck?

Tillerson was asked aboard Air Force One whether Trump still stands by his comments that Islam “hates us.”

“I think the president’s views, like we hope the American people’s views, are going to continue to evolve,” Tillerson said, according to a reporter traveling with the president…

“Understanding each other’s cultures, understanding each other’s beliefs, and I think talking more openly about those, I think there’s a great deal that’s misunderstood about the Muslim world, by Americans and the Western world,” he said…

“Nothing helps you learn and understand people better than coming to their homes, where they live and seeing them face to face, seeing their families, and seeing their communities, finding out we all share the same wants and desires for ourselves and our people, and our families: peace, prosperity, we want our children to grow up without fear,” he said.

Somewhere Bush 43 and Barack Obama are reading those quotes and nodding vigorously. Disappointed Trumpers can take heart, though. If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that no one speaks authoritatively on Trump’s views about anything except Trump himself — and even he’s less than authoritative sometimes. This is a guy who said in September 2015, “I love the Muslims, I think they’re great people,” then said nine months later, “They’re going to have to turn in the people that are bombing the planes. And they know who the people are.” He said he’d have no problem with appointing a Muslim to his cabinet, then floated a temporary worldwide ban on Muslim visitors to the United States. As with so many other things, his position depends on what day of the week you catch him and who the last advisor was whom he spoke to. If the nationalists are whispering in his ear, you might hear him reprise his point that “Islam hates us.” If the Tillersons are leaning on him, you’ll be told that the war on terror “is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.” Tomorrow the Saudis might do something to piss him off and he’ll tweet “NUKE MECCA!” Every day is a crapshoot.

The odd virtue of his shifting opinions and loose-cannon pronouncements, though, is that in time they’ll condition foreign leaders not to fly off the handle over anything he might say — to take him neither seriously nor literally, per Peter Thiel’s famous formulation about Trump. Case in point: After many days of hype over whether he’d refer to “Islamist extremism” during his speech in Saudi Arabia yesterday or the somewhat less PC “Islamic extremism,” Trump stuck to the former — except at one point later in the speech, when he mentioned the latter. The White House blamed that on “exhaustion” but his Muslim audience didn’t bat an eye. Because, in the end, who knows what Trump really thinks? And who cares? Be nice to him and he’ll be nice to you. That’s his truest core conviction. The Saudis figured that out, rolled out the red carpet for him, and got a $110 billion arms deal for their trouble. Other countries will follow suit. Exit question: If “Islam hates us,” why the hell are we selling weapons to Wahhabists?

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