President Donald Trump delivered his third address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, presenting a fierce defense of his “America First” philosophy that also served as a campaign pitch. Here, we decode how his messages that were theoretically meant for other world leaders were really intended for an audience at home.
TRUMP’S MILITARY MIGHT “I have the privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence and self-government above all. The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also by far the world’s most powerful nation.”
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Trump brags every chance he gets about what he calls one of his greatest accomplishments — an increase in spending on the military. But his oft-repeated claim that the mighty American war machine was hobbled under his predecessor is a bit much; the U.S. was still the world’s largest spender by an overwhelming amount, though China has made huge strides in recent years.
A THIRD YEAR OF AMERICA FIRST “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”
This is the essence of Trump’s “America First” policy, the same nationalist rhetoric he espoused on the campaign trail that fueled his victory in 2016.
JOBS JOBS JOBS “It is why we in the United States have embarked on an exciting program of national renewal, and everything we do we are focused on empowering the dreams and aspirations of our citizens. Thanks to our pro-growth economic policies, our domestic unemployment rate reached its lowest level in over half a century. Fueled by massive tax cuts and regulations cuts, jobs are being produced at a historic rate. Six million Americans have been added to the employment roles in under three years. Last month, African American, Hispanic American and Asian American unemployment reached their lowest rates ever recorded.”
Trump was probably never given a speech as president without boasting about the economy — his strongest re-election talking point. But he and some of his closest advisers are starting to worry that an economic downturn will hurt his re-election chances.
CONGRESS ARE YOU LISTENING? “The United States is now taking that decisive action to end this grave economic injustice. Our goal is simple. We want balanced trade that is both fair and reciprocal. We have worked closely with our partners in Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA with the brand new and hopefully bipartisan U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.”
This is more of a message to congressional leaders then foreign leaders. Trump has been pushing Congress to pass his new trade agreement, for months and months, but the prospects have grown dim
TURNING FAILURE INTO SUCCESS “To confront these unfair practices, I placed massive tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese-made goods. Already, as a result of these tariffs, supply chains are relocating back to America and to other nations, and billions of dollars are being paid to our treasury. The American people are absolutely committed to restoring balance to our relationship with China. Hopefully we can reach an agreement that will be beneficial for both countries. But as I have made very clear, I will not accept a bad deal for the American people. As we endeavor to stabilize our relationship, we’re also carefully monitoring the situation in Hong Kong. The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honor its binding treaty made with the British and registered with the United Nations in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system and democratic ways of life. How China chooses to handle the situation will say a great deal about its role in the world in the future. We are all counting on President Xi as a great leader.”
Trump enters his re-election campaign without fulfilling one of his major campaign promises — a trade deal with China. He is trying to persuade people — some of whom have been hurt by an unstable economy — that not accepting a bad deal with China is actually a win.
WILL TRUMP STRIKE IRAN? “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation. We desire peace, cooperation and mutual gain with all. But I will never fail to defend America’s interests. One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran. The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known to us all. Not only is Iran the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, but Iran’s leaders are fueling the tragic wars in both Syria and Yemen.”
Ever since Trump blamed Iran for attacking Saudi oil fields, people in and outside the United States have worried Trump would order a military strike. Trump didn’t rule that out.
ART OF THE DEAL “The United States has never believed in permanent enemies. We want partners, not adversaries. America knows that while anyone can make war, only the most courageous can choose peace, for the same reason we have pursued bold diplomacy on the Korean peninsula. I have told Kim Jong Un what I truly believe, that like Iran, his country is full of tremendous untapped potential, but that to realize that promise North Korea must denuclearize.”
Trump, ever the businessman, is always looking to make a deal — and it doesn’t matter with who. He’s willing to negotiate with North Korean’s dictator or Iran’s supreme leader.
ENDING THE ENDLESS WARS “Around the world our message is clear, America’s goal is lasting, America’s goal is harmony, and America’s goal is not to go with these endless wars, wars that never end.”
Despite his tough talk, Trump isn’t looking to engage in new military conflicts and pledged to bring U.S. soldiers home when he was elected. He believes that wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places have drained U.S. resources better spent for itself.
IMMIGRANTS NOT WELCOME “To anyone conducting crossings of our border illegally, please hear these words: Do not pay the smugglers. Do not pay the coyotes. Do not put yourself in danger. Do not put your children in danger. Because if you make it here, you will not be allowed in. You will be promptly returned home. You will not be released into our country as long as I am president of the United States. We will enforce our laws and protect our borders. For all of the countries of the western hemisphere, our goal is to help people invest in the bright futures of their own nation. Our region is full of such incredible promise, dreams, waiting to be built, and national destinies for all, and they are waiting also to be pursued.”
Trump often talks about curbing illegal immigration but sending a message to immigrants in a United Nations speech is not generally done.
TRUMP ON NAFTA “To the Venezuelans trapped in this nightmare, please know that all of America is united behind you. The United States has vast quantities of humanitarian aid ready and waiting to be delivered. We’re watching the Venezuela situation very closely. We await the day when democracy will be restored, when Venezuela will be free, and when liberty will prevail throughout this hemisphere. One of the most serious challenges our country has faced is the specter of socialism. It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies. The events in Venezuela reminds us all that socialism and communism are not about justice. They are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about good of the nation. Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class. Today I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country.The last century socialism and communism killed 100 million people.”
This is a subtle dig at Democrats. He often blasts Democrats for wanting to bring socialism to America.
SOME CONTEXT ON GAY RIGHTS “As we defend American values, we affirm the right of all people to live in dignity. For this reason, my administration is working with other nations to stop criminalizing homosexuality and we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people who live in countries that punish, jail or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation.”
Critics accuse Trump of being hypocritical on this issue by rolling back policies protecting LGBTQ people in the United States while pushing for equal protections in other countries.
IVANKA TRUMPS INFLUENCE “Guided by these principles, my administration launched the women’s global development and prosperity initiatives. The WGDP is the first ever government-wide approach to women’s economic empowerment working to ensure that women, all over the planet, have the legal right to own and inherit property, work in the same industries as men, travel freely and access credit and institutions. Yesterday I was also pleased to host leaders for a discussion about an ironclad American commitment protecting religious leaders, and also protecting religious freedom.”
This is an initiative championed by the president’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, who was sitting in the audience.
A MESSAGE TO HIS BASE “This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger or even completely outlawed. Americans will never fire or tire in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all. Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”
Trump said the centerpiece of his visit to the United Nations this year would be religious freedom – an initiative designed to appeal to his evangelical supporters. On Monday, he announced the U.S. would spend $25 million to protect religious freedom, religious sites and relics and would form a coalition of U.S. to protect religious freedom.
TRUMP MAY BE SENDING A SIGNAL ON WHERE HE IS ON GUN LEGISLATION “There is no circumstance under which the United States will allow international interests to trample on the rights of our citizens, including the right to self-defense. That is why this year I announced that we will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would threaten the liberties of law-abiding American citizens. The United States will always uphold our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We will always uphold our Second Amendment. The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents. Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few. Our founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse. They choose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation: a proud and fiercely independent people.”
The president has wavered for weeks on his support for gun restrictions following a series of mass shootings this summer. He often mentions the Second Amendment as he looks to appease his conservative base, who oppose many changes.