Steve's Blog

Trump at the UN

First of all, let’s be clear on one thing. When President Trump stepped to the podium at the United Nations yesterday, he was before a predominately hostile crowd – even though the UN is located in his hometown, New York City. These diplomats from around the world were big Barack Obama fans. Heck, the Nobel Committee gave Obama the Peace Prize when he’d been President for about 5 minutes. But Donald Trump? The mainstream press and a lot of the establishment governments around the globe (with the exception of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) mostly accept the view that Donald Trump was unprepared to lead the United States and the international community – in fact he’s dangerous.

So they probably weren’t expecting much when Donald Trump took the stage at the UN yesterday. What they got was substantive, thought-provoking, and a call to action. In my humble option, it was a very good speech. Here were the highlights.

According to Trump, “the scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.” At or near the top of the list is North Korea, and if they should be so foolish as to take hostile actions against the United States or our allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” One of President Trump’s more memorable lines was when he derisively referred to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un as a “Rocket Man on a suicide mission…”

Also near the top of Trump’s bad guy list was Iran. He called the Obama Administration’s agreement with Iran “one of the worst and most one-sided deals ever, and an embarrassment” to the United States. Perhaps most significantly, President Trump indicated that he might in the near future push to have Iran declared to be in violation of the agreement, and terminate it. We’ll see.

Closer to home, in our own hemisphere, I was very pleased to see President Trump devote some time and attention to the debacle occurring in Venezuela. Trump said “the problem is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” What an insightful comment on the fecklessness of socialism – even though a growing number of Americans nowadays (Bernie Sanders’ supporters) seem willing to give it a try.

President Trump was willing to say a few nice things about the UN itself (for humanitarian assistance efforts, peace keeping missions, and AIDS relief for example) but he didn’t hesitate to be critical. For example, he noted that “governments with egregious human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council.” And it bugs Trump that even though the United States is only one of 193 countries in the UN, the U.S. pays 22% of the UN budget – an “unfair cost burden.” (Trump’s right.)

A few other quick observations. Trump once again referred to terrorists as “loser terrorists.” And there were a few things Trump chose not to refer to in his speech at all – like the so-called Muslim travel ban, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, and that beautiful wall he’s promised to build along our border with Mexico. Probably a smart move.

Overall, I thought President Trump’s speech was a very good one. But in full disclosure, I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of Trump’s emphasis on “America First.” I didn’t care for it in his Inaugural Address on day one, and I didn’t care for it yesterday at the UN. To me it comes off as too strident and isolationist, and can be potentially off-putting to our allies – many of whom have stood with us in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Trump did try to explain that every country puts itself first, and that it is through “strong, sovereign nations” that we can all come together and ensure security and prosperity. I get it. But I think using that language is counter-productive when we want our allies to work with us for the common good. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, it was an important speech delivered by a president who is relatively new on the world stage, and in my opinion, definitely rose to the occasion.

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