Much ink was spilled on Trump’s foreign policy speech last week. The criticisms were predictable. They came from the establishment, the left (wait, there’s a difference?), the Shake & Bake Coalition, the “kidlets,” and a cacophony of establishment, elites, and insiders who decry Trump for being so uncouth as to be representative of the many low Americans. How dare he deign to utter an argument with America’s interests placed first in line of consideration!
There is a bit of criticism we have heard that Trumpism and Trump are two different things. That’s true in a way. But, there is no Trumpism without Trump and so, until there are other figures on the scene, Trump is the only person who is able to carry Trumpism to fruition.
All we have to do is actually read Trump’s speech to understand what he means and what he plans in the broad outlines. The typical vapid calls for more policy specificity are predictable as they are unworkable–let’s make sure everyone knows what we will do exactly! And then let’s not follow through with it anyway!
Almost everyone in the media, including the political elites, believe his speech was riddled with contradictions. That’s disingenuous and/or suggests a pundit and political class not willing to listen. If anyone wanted evidence on how our “elites” have failed us arrogantly, they demonstrate it every day when they speak of Trump’s alleged contradictions in his foreign policy speech. George Will, Karl Rove, and countless others are lighting their hair on fire (well not Rove) trying to make heads or tails out of Trump’s foreign policy. Yet, the establishment Republicans have been wrong for decades. It’s rich that those like Sen. Graham would have the temerity to criticize Trump for his policy. The problem of course is that it is so like the establishment to complicate things that do not need to be complicated. It’s not like we are trying to figure out The Guide for the Perplexed, though maybe they should pick up a copy.
Let’s take a trip through the actual speech:
- “The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make.” It is perhaps astonishing that a candidate has to say this, but when was the last time a president or presidential candidate made this claim? Indeed, Trump is exactly right that his point of view is a “timeless” one in terms of this country’s history. All one has to do is read Washington’s “Farewell Address” or even consider what James Madison did as president. Though time and circumstances have changed, how is it ever wrong to consider America’s advantage first? If America is a beacon of freedom, then it should do everything possible to protect that freedom, even if it means other countries don’t necessarily like it. But, what is so difficult to understand about a foreign policy that does not consider another country more than its own? The opposite leads to a feckless weak position in the world and it emboldens our enemies and signals to our friends that they may be sold out. America First means stability and reliability. Reliability meaning they can rely on the fact we will consider our interests first and then the allies second. It means that the president will actually look out for the interests of the country he represents.
- “Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense.” Is there anyone who seriously believes things have not changed? Well, a lot seem stuck in the past, we suppose. We should note that Trump does not say that Russia is not a threat, just that it is not the greatest threat. Terror is the greatest threat, but so are the problems presented by the madman in North Korea, in China, and around the Mexican border, etc. New problems are facing the country since the collapse of the cold war. Isn’t that obvious? Reading a bit of history demonstrates that the inability to defend the border means internal decay and fall. In other words, there’s much to be concerned about from internal defeat than from outside threats. Things have changed. Foreign policy should change to reflect this new reality. Bush, Bush, Clinton, Obama have stayed the course. Hillary is campaigning on more of the same. How’s that working out for us? Is doing the same thing over and over politically smart? It’s not. This is why Trump said, “Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision, no purpose, no direction, no strategy.” We have no strategy related to Russia. We care not about Iran’s nuclear proliferation other than to pay them more money (hardly an America First policy). We have no strategy for the southern border, and we have no idea what to do about ISIS. We have no clue what to do in the South China Sea. We have no policy on Japan (and let’s face it, rearming Japan would be cleverly brilliant). We have no clue what to do with North Korea. If I did not know better, I swear we were stuck in an episode of Yes, Prime Minister.
- Contradiction? “To all our friends and allies, I say America is going to be strong again. America is going to be a reliable friend and ally again…We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.” It boggles the mind how many people (George Will, the entire cast of Meet the Press) cannot understand both can be true and are not opposing principles. First, we should be reliable to our allies. This is a clear signal to Israel that we will not abandon them like Clinton and Obama have done. We defend our friends and allies, but that does not mean we abandon our self interest and hand them the store by revealing everything that is in our interest to them. It would be stupid and destructive to do so.Second, to our enemies, we have to be unpredictable. Why would we telegraph our movements to those who want to destroy us (remember when the Allies set up a fake Patton army in WW2? Genius). The elitist braintrust criticizes Trump for the apparent contradiction. They ought to be smarter than this. If they are not smart enough to understand the difference, they should be removed from their lofty position as pundit/expert/insider–in other words, we need to stop listening to them. If they are lying about Trump (and many are) then they deserve to be removed from the serious consideration as they are willing to keep the status quo, which is not working and putting our nation more in danger.
We could say more, much more, but suffice to say, Trump criticizes the foreign policy of the last 30 years left and right. Those who support the past and want to continue that policy don’t like it one bit. The fact that they are outraged by Trump’s policy positions means that Trump’s speech was cogent and effective, not incoherent.
So the Foreign policy is:
- America’s interest first
- Stronger military
- prudent use of force, and when used, overwhelming force
- Be more reliable to our allies
- Be more unpredictable to our enemies, and use our enemies when possible to our advantage
- Destroy, like really destroy, ISIS.
Trump might be less extensive in his comments on domestic politics. It is historically an unsexy topic to tackle and gains politicians nothing historically, unless you are for Law & Order. But that purposeful punting on our domestic problems have gotten us where we are today. There is no doubt that Trump thinks the foreign and the domestic are intertwined. A weak country internally will be weak externally. This has been forgotten by everyone except people like Rudy Giuliani.
- Prosperity: “First, Our Resources Are Overextended President Obama has weakened our military by weakening our economy. He’s crippled us with wasteful spending, massive debt, low growth, a huge trade deficit and open borders.“
It went largely unnoticed, but Trump employs the word prosperous or prosperity numerous times in his speech. When he speaks of prosperity, he means the entire country and everyone in it, not just the rich or those addicted to corporate welfare. The key to a prosperous country is to have a marketplace where jobs may be found and had. This is a not so subtle criticism of the libertarians who have contended for decades that free trade would be great for “consumers.” The problem is that jobs leave the country for more friendly climes and in those climes, other countries get rich while more people in our country are out of work. There are no consumers if consumers do not have money to spend. Trump does not mean to end all trade (see Declaration) but allow for the atmosphere where pursuit may be had in freedom and liberty (see Declaration).
Trump should have said something about the strangling regulations and the growth of the administrative state here. He certainly implies that free trade has been bad for us, yet he is scant on how he will deregulate the impediments to business. He also says that free trade we have been sold is not really free trade. It has been “here let’s sell out our country” trade. He is also silent on the fact that unions will have to be broken for us to be competitive again. Nevertheless, Trump means that a prosperous country will help provide for, a “strong military” and a strong country. The more we work, the faster we handle and pay down our debt. We need growth. Robust growth has been absent for a decade, and which effects all economic segments of society. This means that in order to right our economic ship, we have to address the problems associated with government spending, regulation, and administration. Part of the reason we are not respected in the world, is because we are incompetent top to bottom. This is partly why he wants to make impotent, if not dismantle, the EPA, the DoE, and the IRS. Trump asserts: “No country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first. Both our friends and enemies put their countries above ours and we, while being fair to them, must do the same.”
- Promotion of Western Civilization: “Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions. Instead of trying to spread “universal values” that not everyone shares, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions.“
Just how many candidates actually make a case for Western civilization? The pimping of the Cruz campaign for the religious vote is so narrow as to be strangulating his own reason for being in the race–as an outsider, not an 80s throwback. Yet, Cruz ignorantly thought that is where most of America is–and people call Trump stupid. Cruz then doubled down and courted Glenn Beck, the overly religious oddity who once got schooled by Ronald Pestritto. The problem was, he obviously did not understand Pestritto’s more learned and rational position. The Cruz campaign smacks of a sort of Dominionist theocratic foundation to America, which ought to be loudly rejected. We should be scared of such Priests. Most Americans are, and that is why his campaign is bleeding now.
Trump goes foundational in all of this. He actually believes that there is something worthwhile about western civilization worth saving. His understanding of western values and institutions (which includes the Church folks) is juxtaposed against his understanding of “universal values” which is code for nihilism. Western “values” are enduring values and need defense. Universal “values” are those that come out of the United Nations, which is full of meaningless pap dressed up as a recognition of human rights, yet in a deeply secular materialistic way. Another example is that Nature is omitted by the UN as a source for all “rights.” Trump seems to understand all of this, perhaps instinctively.
While we wish Trump used a different word for the west than “values” we certainly do not object to the meaning of the sentence and what it implies: Trump will be a defender of the West and in that, he will defend enduring truths that have long existed even before America noted those truths at the Founding. This is impressive stuff and demonstrates some real thought.
- Another Brick in the Wall: “We are also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again – and to put Americans first again. This will ensure that our own workers, right here in America, get the jobs and higher pay that will grow our tax revenue and increase our economic might as a nation.” There can be no doubt that Trump has a two-pronged approach here. First, he wants to build a wall to protect our borders. This is necessary for the survival of the country, and its identity. We are caring less about assimilation, and that carefree attitude has given a lot of Europe it’s problems right now as they try to figure out how to deal with their own immigration problems. Second, the border issue is a domestic economic issue. Many jobs are done by illegals, and to stop the flow of that supply, it will force those who are actually legal workers to find jobs–or it will encourage more innovation on the farm. Either way, problems mitigated.
- The Vets: “A great country also takes care of its warriors. Our commitment to them is absolute. A Trump Administration will give our service men and women the best equipment and support in the world when they serve, and the best care in the world when they return as veterans to civilian life.” It’s remarkable how many candidates are NOT speaking about the vets. The fact that we do not care for them is a national disgrace. Trump at every stop speaks to them.
So the Domestic Policy is:
- Pay down the debt
- Free trade that benefits American citizens, not just in consumption
- Limit government
- Allow for the creation of jobs
- Reinvigorate Patriotism
- Secure the borders
- Scale back the Administrative state
- Take care of our own (the vets)
- Promote the Idea of America unabashedly
- Be non-cognizant of religion and other social issues to allow freedom to flourish
The vet issue brings us back to the political: Trump is the most political politician in recent memory. He actually has ideas. Romney had none. Dennis Prager was accounting on May 2 how the Romney campaign had “no idea what it stood for.” Neither does Obama or Clinton. And we have seen Cruz throw away what he stood for the last two weeks for political expediency.
The one person who has remained political is Trump and he has not backed off any of his most important opinions. He has been the most consistent candidate this cycle. His attempt to discuss the regime, and who we are–the border–coupled with his intense patriotism–defend the country with overwhelming force if we have to–is nothing short of sweeping and recalls to our mind the idea of a republic. Being political means he is not afraid to talk about matters of justice. Trump talks about justice all the time in broad terms. Clinton talks about identity of small groups (LGBT anyone? Let’s play the Woman card shall we?); Trump talks about America and the idea of it in terms of equality–he wants us to be patriots again and judge each other on merit. Clinton and Obama are ashamed of their own country. Trump is an unabashed lover of what makes America Great.