As Tapper put the question, “He was worried about starting World War III over Syria. Why is that no longer a concern? And why was the 2013 chemical weapons attack, which, as you know, was deadlier, not a trigger for him in terms of the principle of inaction in Syria?."
Ambassador Haley's explanation was pithy -- or perhaps non-existent depending on your perspective.
“Well, he wasn’t president in 2013,” she said.
It's sort of adorable in some ways, if she wasn't the U.N. Ambassador, but had been a nine-year-old child. And if Trump wasn't president of the United States, and who had previously been worried about how attacking Syria could start World War II, but according to Ms. Haley seemingly isn't concerned about that now.
Apparently realizing that her simplistic words wouldn't quite suffice as an explanation, she gave herself a little wiggle room. “But I don’t know what his thought process was then,” she said, providing the same observation of most Americans.
There are a few problems with this, of course.
The most notable problem is that even if he wasn't president, he was laying down a foundation of telling the American public what his thought process was and why he should be president. It was a position he never deviated from once he officially announced his candidacy and once he became the official Republican Party nominee. Follow me because I believe this.
If the only explanation for his complete opinion change is simply that he "wasn't president," then that of course holds for everything he said before January 20 of this year. He wasn't president before then, so apparently he was just talking and tweeting relentlessly out of near-total ignorance. If "he wasn't president" holds as the only reason for having a different opinion and speaking out forcefully and repeatedly in ignorance about Syria and Muslims and immigrants and building a wall and terrorism and national security climate change and trade and crime and health care (which no one knew was really complicated, he said) and being the only one who can solve all our problems and not listening to generals and being his own best adviser because he is really very smart and much more...then we have a public acknowledgement now from the U.N. Ambassador that he was an incredibly, mind-numbingly irresponsible person and candidate.
But I don't know what his thought process was then, either. Mind you, I also don't know what his thought process is now.
(To be clear, other than the president, NO ONE is president, yet that doesn't preclude others, not only actual experts but everyone else in the world from the possibility of having an informed, even just thoughtful opinion when they speak. Or tweet. Indeed, some of those opinions are highly informed. In fact, many of those very opinions are what specifically informs the president. A president does learn more once he becomes president, but he doesn't learn everything. And he doesn't suddenly learn the core facts -- like that health care is complicated. But then, if you don't know what you're talking about because you're not president yet, then it's probably not a good idea to tell the world that you don't need to listen to generals because you're really very smart and are your own best adviser and should be president of the United States.)
Additionally, the problem with Ms. Haley's "explanation" is that Trump's massive contradiction over Syria is not just that "he wasn't president." Because, you see, he was president when he spoke earlier in the week about Syria, and when his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave administration policy the week before when he said it was up to Syria to determine Syria's fate.
Furthermore, Ms. Haley causes other problems for herself and her argument and Trump when she tries to right the ship and said that “I can tell you what his thought process was this week, which was, he is not going to condone chemical weapons use ever."
Except this ignores that last week's chemical attack -- assuming it was a chemical attack, which hasn't yet been officially verified, something we learned about WMD's is always a good thing to do -- was significantly smaller than the previous Syrian chemical attack that had caused as many as 1,700 deaths and about which Trump had been repeatedly insisting not to attack Syria at the risk of starting World War III. Yes, he "wasn't president" then, but Nikki Halley doesn't say that Trump is not going to condone the use of chemical weapons now that he is president (which is an odd position since most sentient adults likely grasp the hellish damage chemical weapons cause), but that he is not going to condone chemical weapons use "EVER." And presumably "ever" includes four years before when as much as 1,700 people reportedly died, compared to 70 last week -- which is still 70 too many.
And ultimately, the massive problem with this -- both the fact of saying "he wasn't president" when he had been ranting about things he didn't have a clue what he was talking about in trying to show why he should be the president and trying to show how now that he is president "this week" he has a completely different view -- is that the 180-degree change was a total reversal that came without any sense of thought process. It just changed from days before. When you're going to bomb another country and risk World War III, thinking things out substantively and planning for the future and having a rock-solid policy seems really critical. "He wasn't president" just doesn't cut it.
On the other hand, saying "he wasn't president" does have at least one grain of truth to it in explaining Trump's complete 180-degree turnaround. And it comes in Trump's own tweet back in 2012 when he wrote --