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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

It took Little Rocket Man just seven months to go from President Trump calling him "a sick puppy," to "very talented" during the post-summit press conference, to syrupy praise of Kim Jong-un during the president's interview in Singapore with Fox News' Bret Baier.

The shift is jarring but is part of the Trump modus operandi: People come in and out of favor with wind-shear-like abruptness. Anyone in Trump's orbit knows they can be banished on a whim — but have a good chance of coming back.

  • There's no nuance with Trump. He oscillates between extremes, embracing and banishing people, even without real changes in their behavior.
"He is a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country — tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father. I don't care who you are, what you are. How much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, ... I mean, that's one in 10, 000 that could do that. So he is a very smart guy. He is a great negotiator."
— President Trump in an interview with Bret Baier
  • Trump tweeted, ignoring the absence of verification provisions, timetables, etc.: "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Why it matters: When everything is hyperbole, words lose their force and meaning.

Kim is the most extreme example of the swing, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also went through the cycle (only in reverse): fawned on by Trump as a close family friend when he was in the White House, then lit on fire after hosting last weekend's G7 summit.

  • Same thing for West Wing aide after West Wing aide.
  • Trump deploys his doctrine of extreme force extremely, whether it's in a Twitter beef with Robert DeNiro or in geopolitics with Kim Jong-un.

"This is the Trump playbook for dealing with foreign leaders," a source close to Trump tells Axios. "Trump does to other foreign leaders what he wishes they would do for him. On the positive side, it's lavishing him with praise, rolling out the red carpet. The Saudis were brilliant at it."

  • "On the flip side, Trump only respects force, only respects balls. And so if he's going to go at somebody, he's going to go at them in the way that he would respect somebody else going at him. No holds barred."
  • "The Saudis were smart, because what did they get for that flattery? I've talked to Trump multiple times since [his visit to] Saudi Arabia. And multiple times he's [talked about] the swords, the red carpet, the palace, the pageantry, the royalty. All of it designed to tell Trump how important he was, and how important their relationship with him was to them."

So Trump allies argue that he could turn on Kim as quickly as he embraced him. As the source put it:

  • "You know how much optics matter to him. Now he's put himself in a position of potential embarrassment. If you don't follow through, you're embarrassing him on the world stage. ... [T]hey know that if they screw him, there'll be hell to pay."

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Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump departs on final Air Force One flight

President Trump and his family took off on Air Force One at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning for the final time en route to Florida.

The big picture: Trump's final hours as president were punctuated by his decisions to snub his successor's inauguration and grant pardons to many of his allies who have been swept up in corruption scandals.

Inauguration Day dashboard

Screenshot: Fox News

President Trump has left the White House en route to a farewell event at Andrews Air Force Base, kicking off the day that will culminate with President-elect Joe Biden taking office.

What's next: The inaugural celebration for young Americans is being livestreamed, starting at 10am.

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Janet Yellen said all the right things to reassure the markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Treasury Secretary nominee and former Fed chair Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday showed markets just what they can expect from the administration of President-elect Joe Biden: more of what they got under President Trump — at least for now.

What it means: Investors and big companies reaped the benefits of ultralow U.S. interest rates and low taxes for most of Trump's term as well as significant increases in government spending, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

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