Was this another case of the media relying on anonymous sources and getting the story wrong or the White House having different people talking out of school who aren’t on the same page? I’m referring to an article from the Wall Street Journal which lit up the internet last night. The original title when the WSJ pushed it out on social media was, “Trump Administration Won’t Withdraw from Paris Climate Deal.” But by this morning it had been revised to read, “Trump Administration Seeks to Avoid Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord, International Climate Officials Say.”
Either way, the “climate officials” seemed to be telling somebody that a change was in the air and Trump was more amenable to sticking with the scheme.
Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change, according to multiple officials at a global warming summit.
The reason for the change was most likely an immediate response from the President saying that the announcement was pretty much horse hockey. This from The Hill.
The White House on Saturday denied reports that the Trump administration is no longer seeking to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.
“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters in a statement.
The deeper you read into this story, the more it looks as if there might have been some truth on both sides, even though that sounds entirely counterintuitive. Trump had been promising for well over a year that he would pull out of the treaty, but he almost always couched those claims with a caveat indicating that the only way he’d go along with it was if it could be renegotiated to be more fair to the United States and not threaten lost jobs, higher costs, etc.
In response, the other signatories had previously been saying that no further negotiations were needed or possible. But with the date fast approaching to lock everything down, is it possible that some of the Europeans were beginning to get cold feet? If they’re talking about giving Trump at least part of what he wants, perhaps they were trying to tempt him back to the table. The President loves a good deal when he can make one so I wouldn’t put it entirely in the realm of the impossible. And if he got those new provisions, he comes out looking like a winner.
The other possibility is that this was all just a parlor trick. We can’t rule out the idea that the President is putting up a variety of trial balloons to see if he can get some wins on the books while Congress remains almost entirely deadlocked on his agenda. Niall Stanage has an opinion piece out this weekend in which he makes the case that Trump simply likes to keep everyone guessing and off balance. He quotes a few GOP strategists who, among other things, describe him as being a “transactional president.”
Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist, said, “I think he figured out that some of the things he wants to get done are not going to get done on a purely partisan basis.”
Black asserted that this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that Trump was somehow morphing into a centrist.
“No, I think he is transactional person and he will operate on an ad hoc basis,” he said.
Further deepening the confusion, the president has maintained the hard-line rhetoric that excites his base — and appalls Democrats — on other issues.
Keep in mind that Charlie Black was referring primarily to DACA, where we saw a similar pattern. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to get rid of the program, correctly calling it an unconstitutional amnesty. But then, after his recent meetings with “Chuck and Nancy” sources began saying that he open to keeping it if it was done as an act of Congress and not executive fiat. The White House response was again one of saying there was no change in policy, but that a deal might be possible if he got the other things he wanted on immigration policy and border enforcement.
Is that what Trump is doing on climate change now? He starts with a punch in the nose, telling them we’re abandoning the agreement, but then puts out feelers under the radar offering them a chance to salvage it with some horse trading. And meanwhile, he keeps the rest of us guessing. Is that crazy? I’m not saying this is definitely the case, but it does seem to fit the recent pattern.