Donald Trump has shocked us again - this time for the better

In his Thanksgiving Day message Mr Trump was uncharacteristically emollient. He is a difficult man to read

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The Independent Online

It would be right and proper to praise Donald Trump’s shifting policy positions as signs of shift to sanity (rather than any particular wing of politics). It would also be right to applaud the appointment of some of his harsher critics to be aides and members of his cabinet. Equally, it would be deeply worrying if Mr Trump showed signs of wanting to surround himself only with members of his family and a variety of sycophants. The world would also be concerned if the President-elect seemed intent on actually implementing some of what might be termed the political locker-room talk of the campaign.

With Mr Trump, unpredictably, we see evidence of both encouraging and deeply dispiriting trends. In his recent interview with The New York Times, Mr Trump completed a series of policy “flip-flops” that give hope to those who believe that he might yet prove a more pragmatic and sensible statesman than seemed possible only a few weeks ago. Indeed, his choice of newspaper was itself symbolic, as he had routinely abused the title during his rallies. In his Thanksgiving Day message Mr Trump was uncharacteristically emollient. He is a difficult man to read.

In any case, we now know, or have had it confirmed by the man himself, that he isn’t going to waste time or rub salt into the nation’s wounds by going after Hillary Clinton. So much for “jail her”. We know, more remarkably, that he is softening his stance on climate change, which offers some chance that the Paris Treaty on the environment will be endorsed by him and ratified by the Republican-controlled Senate. Mr Trump has proposed two important female appointments recently as well, with no sexist braggadocio attached to them – Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, to ambassador to the UN, and Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Both women made no secret of their dislike for the Trump style. An even more outspoken critic, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is still in with a chance as Secretary of State. If Mr Romney were appointed that would be an enormous reassurance to America’s Nato allies in Europe, and offer the prospect of a more measured approach to American diplomacy.

Then again, we also know that Mr Trump is capable of some appalling misjudgements, such as his suggestion that Nigel Farage be appointed HM Ambassador to the United States, tearing up the TTP treaty and, more grievously, making Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions the Attorney General in the Trump administration, news that was met with wide condemnation. And we also know that members of the Trump family may exercise undue influence over his decision-making (though this would be far from the first time in American history that this sort of thing had happened).

So, more than any other president in recent times, Mr Trump’s actions in office will probably be as surprising as some of the outlandish things he did on the campaign trail. Some will undoubtedly be unwelcome, even dangerous; but there is at least the possibility, based on the evidence of recent days, that some may lead to a kinder, gentler Donald Trump. We can only hope.