| But now, as his inauguration nears, there's a sliver of hope that Trump's fluidity on issues––to put it as kindly as possible––will rescue the nation from some of his most troubling campaign rhetoric.
Take Obamacare. After visiting the White House, Trump told reporters that President Obama had lobbied for two linchpins of the law that should be retained: rules regarding pre-existing conditions and coverage for offspring to age 26.
Trump embraced these key points, a far cry from his unqualified "repeal and replace" thunder on election eve. It's possible that the Affordable Care Act will survive with little more than the necessary changes that most Democrats have sought all along.
Trump's overarching trait is unpredictability. This is a man who, over his 70 years, has been a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent. He's donated to candidates and causes across the political spectrum. He is ego-driven and wants nothing more than to be: (a) rich, and (b) revered by all Americans.
Trump is not likely to allow his own campaign gibberish to get in the way.
Deport 11 million people? Not likely. Even before Election Day Trump revised that pledge to include only "dangerous criminals." It might turn out that Trump ousts fewer undocumented immigrants than the Obama Administration, which, sadly, has been guilty of excessive deportations.
Ban all Muslims? Trump has already reeled that back, saying that he simply wants better vetting of travelers from regions where terrorists have strongholds.
Build a wall? House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly kicked that aside saying that border enforcement is more important than building a $25 billion structure. Trump now says for parts of the border a simple fence might suffice.
It was enlightening to hear Trump voters in Ohio interviewed by CNN on Election Day. Most said they never took him literally about the wall; it was a figurative promise, they explained. One man said he assumed Trump was envisioning a "virtual wall."
Marriage equality? It's settled law he told "60 Minutes," stressing that he was just fine with leaving it that way.
Add all that to his pledge to create jobs by rebuilding roads, airports and other pieces of our decaying infrastructure––a goal key Democrats have already embraced. Toss in his daughter Ivanka's plans for child care and Trump's hints about making college more affordable and you have the outline of an almost-worthy agenda.
But! Trump's no Boy Scout. While softening his campaign threats he could still destroy the economy, wreak havoc on the Supreme Court and foster greater instability around the globe.
Many reasonable people will never forgive Trump for his vulgarities during and before the campaign, nor should they. Yet, it's in our best interests to accept whatever crumbs of compassion he's now willing to offer.
Here's my advice to journalists, Democrats and those who would hold Trump's feet to the fire. Don't ask him about his campaign rhetoric. Don't dare him to make good on promises we'd all rather he not keep. If the president-elect wants to back-peddle, get out of his way.
The memorable line on "Seinfeld" suggests: "It's not a lie if you really believe it." In Donald Trump's case: It's not a lie if you believed all along that you would revise it once you were elected.
(c) Peter Funt. Distributed by Cagle syndicate.