By way of introduction, allow us to reiterate what we said earlier regarding Trump’s speech at the U.N.
This was an absurdly divisive speech that serves to validate everyone’s worst fears about this administration. Worse than that, Trump is pushing the world further down the path to isolationism while simultaneously championing a nationalist message that has no place in modernity and frankly, that a whole lot of people died trying to stamp out.
We all knew this was going to be bad, but it was orders of magnitude worse than expected no matter what kind of spin anyone tries to put on it.
So with that in mind, consider the following excerpts from a longer piece by David Rothkopf for WaPo…
President Trump delivered a speech to his alt-right, anti-globalist base from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. He offered a vision of America’s role in the world starkly different from any of his predecessors who stood in the same spot before the leaders of the world. In the end, Trump offered up remarks that were antithetical to the ideas and ideals that led the United States to play a central role in the U.N.’s founding in the wake of World War II.
Trump spoke frequently about “sovereignty” in his remarks, so frequently that it might be argued that it was the central theme of his speech. “We do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation,” he said. National sovereignty, of course, has been perhaps the foundational tenet of international affairs for centuries. But Trump’s words were code. They spoke to the fears of the Breitbart crowd that U.S. collaboration with other nations in a global organization means giving up its sovereignty to foreigners.
Trump also lashed out at “global bureaucracies” and international trade accords. While he said that the U.N., after almost three-quarters of a century, showed some promise, he complained the United States was spending too much on it (“We pay far more than anybody realizes. The United States bears an unfair cost burden,” he said). This attack on the U.N. comes in conjunction with his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, his goal of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, his threats to undo the U.S.-South Korea trade deal and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as his criticism of our NATO allies and alliances.
Overall, Trump’s speech to the United Nations reinforces his position as the most nationalist U.S. president of modern history.
Trump offered an ideology that he called “realistic” but at its heart was essentially selfish. All foreign policy is guided by national interests. That is as fundamental as the respect for sovereignty. But while Trump praised some U.N. programs, time and time again they seemed clearly grounded in a philosophy of “what’s in it for us” that seemed to set aside the values of community and common interests on which the U.N. was founded. This was perhaps best illustrated by the case he made against what he called “uncontrolled migration” and his arguments that the best place for refugees is, in his view, as far from the United States as possible.
Beyond pragmatism, the speech will likely be remembered as one in which the president of the United States sounded more like a mob boss than a statesman—think Robert DeNiro as Al Capone in “The Untouchables” minus the baseball bat. This was a tough guy flexing his muscles so that all in the audience could see how tough he was.