Donald Trump made his first major foreign speech on Thursday, July 6, at the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, Poland. He was surprisingly clear, coherent, and projected conviction and belief in the words he uttered.
I don’t agree with Trump on everything and believe that his personal conduct leaves much to be desired and does not give due respect and reverence to the office he holds. However, the reaction to this speech was disproportionate to what was actually said and reveals the ulterior motives of those making the point.
After the usual diplomatic flim-flam thanking the Polish dignitaries and saying how much he loved to be in Poland, a country placed at the centre of the European continent and witness to some of its defining historical moments, trials and tribulations, he got down to his speech. It was a long one, and the transcript is available here.
Trump however gave a realistic picture of the threats facing the Western world today. He talked about a variety of geopolitical security issues, from radical Islamist terrorism, to cybersecurity issues, to a commitment to Article 5 of NATO, to Russian meddling in the Ukraine.
Of course, because he didn’t spout the same platitudes about ‘hope and change’ and say everything would be fine if we just hold hands and sing ‘Imagine’. That led the predictable circles in the media to weep and wail about how dark it was, how lacking in hope, how deprived of optimistic visions of the future.
They proclaimed that he had regressed to his ‘American Carnage’ rhetoric seen in his inauguration speech. Sorry, the world isn’t a pretty place and there are people who would be quite happy to see the West enfeebled, in retreat and in eventual ruin. Facing up to that, with a degree of honest realism, is now beyond the pale. Maybe that’s why we’re in such bad shape.
After this, Trump really plunged into the heart of his message. And of course, the commentary classes went crazy. The New Republic and Vox.com called it an ‘alt-right’ speech based in xenophobic nativism speckled with a dusting of white grievance. (Compare Trump’s speech with that of Kennedy in 1961)
Eric Foner of Columbia University said on BBC’s Newsnight that Trump’s speech repeated the idea that Trump was espousing white nationalism and alt-right xenophobic nativism. According to him, saying that Europe and the West are based on Judeo-Christian values is basically white pride.
I’m sure those who also subscribe to Judeo-Christian values who aren’t white, like Middle Eastern Coptic Christians and Israelis are thrilled at this incredibly solipsistic and narcissistic display of privilege on the part of some well-to-do academic.