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National Security

Better Than Blaming America First

Then again, that's a low bar.

Nate Jackson · Apr. 28, 2016

Donald Trump gave a much-ballyhooed speech on foreign policy Wednesday in which he sought to answer essentially one question: Can we trust this man with the nuclear launch codes? An affirmative answer wasn’t obvious.

It was only the second time Trump has spoken while using the teleprompter he’s so fond of mocking. Obviously, that mockery is heartfelt, because he was not at home reading his speech instead of the usual winging it. As Jonah Goldberg quipped, “He’s also clearly uncomfortable giving serious speeches with whole sentences put together to form whole paragraphs.”

But the reviews weren’t all bad. Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey offered a compliment, if a backhanded one: “Mr. Trump over the last year has said some of the most irresponsible, inane statements on foreign policy [and] defense policy that I’ve ever heard in public life. This speech — I thought he hit it out of the ballpark.”

Trump sycophant Ann Coulter tweeted that it was the “GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH SINCE WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS” (caps lock malfunction in the original).

Hyperbole aside, there were a few things Trump said with which we agree. “America first” is a refreshing message after Barack Obama’s tenure of “Blame America first.” Trump’s calls for modernizing and upgrading our military are on target. As was his assessment of Barack Obama’s dealing with Iran and treacherous treatment of our allies, along with his generally disastrous Middle East policy.

Here are a few excerpts we consider to be solid:

“We must develop a foreign policy based on American interests.”

“The world is most peaceful and most prosperous when America is strongest.”

“[Obama] treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power. Iran has indeed become a great, great power in just a very short period of time because of what we’ve done. All … done at the expense of Israel, our allies in the region and, very importantly, the United States itself.”

“Our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us. We have a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies, something we’ve never seen before in the history of our country.”

“If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.”

“Hillary Clinton also refuses to say the words radical Islam, even as she pushes for a massive increase in refugees coming into our country. After Secretary Clinton’s failed intervention in Libya, Islamic terrorists in Benghazi took down our consulate and killed our ambassador and three brave Americans. Then, instead of taking charge that night, Hillary Clinton decided to go home and sleep. Incredible. Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie. Our ambassador was murdered and our secretary of state misled the nation.”

“The Russians and Chinese have rapidly expanded their military capability, but look at what’s happened to us. Our nuclear weapons arsenal, our ultimate deterrent, has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal. … Our active duty Armed Forces have shrunk from two million in 1991 to about 1.3 million today. The Navy has shrunk from over 500 ships to 272 ships during this same period of time. The Air Force is about one-third smaller than 1991. Pilots flying B-52s in combat missions today. These planes are older than virtually everybody in this room. And what are we doing about this? President Obama has proposed a 2017 defense budget that in real dollars cuts nearly 25% from what we were spending in 2011. Our military is depleted and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming.”

Finally, we’ll defend Trump from one particular attack by Clinton, who said before the speech, “[N]othing he can say can hide the long list of dangerous national security proposals he’s put forward over the course of this campaign. He has used the most reckless rhetoric of any major presidential candidate in modern history.”

Reckless rhetoric? How about her reckless policies that actually resulted in the deaths of Americans and unleashed the current chaos in the Middle East?

So back to our opening: Did the speech answer the question of trust? We suppose that depends on the listener, but in our estimation there are two particularly “yuge” red flags:

First, Trump obviously doesn’t think deeply about anything, so his speech was, as is typical of everything he says, all over the map in terms of a guiding vision. Trump has now taken both sides of almost every issue, just as Obama does. For example, Trump promised to eradicate the Islamic State “very, very quickly,” but he also rejected a large ground force or occupation. How would he accomplish his goal? He didn’t say. He said U.S. foreign policy should be “more unpredictable” but also “disciplined, deliberate and consistent.” A good start would be a consistent speech. And that’s only scratching the surface of his inconsistencies.

Second, our biggest worry is exemplified in this single quote: “I’m the only one — believe me, I know them all — I’m the only one who knows how to fix it.” Since 2008, we’ve gone from “Yes We Can” to “Yes I Can.” We’ve endured almost eight years with a man who still thinks he’s the messiah, and we have no desire for a similar second coming.

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