The laughter that erupted at the outset of President Trump’s speech before the United Nations on Tuesday prompted a tsunami of media coverage and sarcasm over social media — but, according to some former U.S. diplomats, the guffaws belied the President’s deeply troubling view of the world.
Once the laughter subsided, Trump barreled through a sharply worded General Assembly address in which he espoused what ex-State Department officials saw as a wish to isolate the U.S. from its allies while giving a pass to its adversaries, pushing “patriotism” over “globalism” and “sovereignty” above all.
“He is accepting the Putin view of the world,” said Daniel Fried, who served in a variety of senior diplomatic positions in the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
In his speech, Trump repeatedly took aim at the diplomatic body he addressed, vowing that the U.S. will never “surrender” to such an “unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”
On the flipside, Trump advocated for a sweeping view of “sovereignty” for all nations. World leaders should keep out of each other’s business, Trump suggested, so they can “make their countries great again.”
Fried, who most recently served as the sanctions policy coordinator under President Barack Obama, told the Daily News that such comments run counter to American policy traditions that have been in place since the UN was established in the wake of World War II.
“There is nothing patriotic about diminishing America and turning us into just another grasping, greedy power, like the ones we rejected when America came of age and we realized we had a shot of remaking the world,” Fried said. “It’s unpatriotic.”
The approach championed by Trump, Fried continued, is music to the ears of autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“It’s essentially accepting their worldview,” Fried said.
John Herbst, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan and Ukraine under the Clinton and Bush administrations, said Trump is shooting himself in the foot by relentlessly attacking U.S. allies.
“I have zero problem with him talking about national interest, but our interests are served by the global order, so his taking a swipe at them is not helping anyone,” Herbst said. “That’s what he doesn’t seem to understand.”
However, Herbst noted that Trump’s nationalist remarks contradict his own administration’s policies.
Since Trump took office, Herbst said he has been impressed by the government’s hawkish foreign policy stances, including implementing harsh sanctions on the Kremlin and pushing back on Iranian aggression in the Middle East.
“The policies of his administration are much better than his statements, and thank God for that,” Herbst said.
Fried countered that Trump’s contradictory remarks diminish the reliability of U.S. leadership — a sentiment echoed by Democrats.
“In response to Trump’s incoherent rant at the UN, Democrats need to rally around a progressive foreign policy that transforms our national security toolkit to meet new global threats,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted along with a string of policy proposals on U.S. military involvement abroad. “Let’s have a robust debate amongst progressives about how we can be for more than just reflexive opposition to Trump’s nonsensical withdrawal from the world.”
One of the main takeaways from Trump’s speech was his boastful remarks about his administration’s supposedly unmatched accomplishments, which drew mocking laughter from world leaders in the audience.
While he found Trump’s isolationist pushing points far more concerning, Fried said the laughter that echoed through the halls of the General Assembly on Tuesday is indicative of how out of touch the President is with foreign affairs.