After trouncing his GOP competitors in five primaries this week and pronouncing himself the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump celebrated by giving a lengthy, prepared address on how he would conduct American foreign policy as our president and commander in chief.
Yes, my fellow Americans, it has come to that. And how did the speech go?
Let’s just say that Trump demonstrated his mastery over international relations just as convincingly as his discussion of “Two Corinthians” at Liberty University demonstrated his years of heartfelt study of the Holy Bible. What he laid out for his listeners Wednesday was less a vision than a nightmare, a chaotic, contradictory mess that left foreign-policy experts bewildered by what he claimed would be a “disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy”.
In one breath Trump talked about demanding that our allies contribute more to our mutual defense, and “if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.” In the very next breath he complained that “our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.”
“We’re getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world,” he said, offering no recognition of the contradiction in that sentence.
He talked about the necessity of living up to agreements. “Your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them. You’ve made that agreement, you have to stand by it.” Then he promised to break the nuclear treaty negotiated with our allies and Iran, and also promised to break multiple trade agreements.
If the speech had a theme, it was the same theme that runs through every Trump speech, regardless of topic.
“I’m the only one — believe me, I know them all, I’m the only one who knows how to fix it.”
It’s hard to learn something that you would prefer not to know. Your instinct is to reject it, ignore it, try to find some way to deny it. In this case, I would have preferred not to know that large swaths of the American people could be taken in by the likes of Trump. I liked the world better when I still thought that this kind of thing couldn’t happen here, not in this country, not in this day and age.
But apparently it can. Apparently a lot of Americans can be taken in by a cult of personality, by the idea that for every complex, multi-faceted problem there is an simple answer, and that answer is Trump. His lack of knowledge, his arrogant ignorance, to them, none of it matters.
Part of the explanation may be that different people have different concepts of the presidency. If what you seek in a president is someone who validates your resentments and voices your grievances, then yes, any number of people could fill that role. If that’s what you seek in a president, then Sarah Palin, one heartbeat from the presidency and a few cards short of a full deck, was absolutely a plausible vice president just as Trump is absolutely qualified to be president.
But if you think a president ought to be a serious person with experience in public affairs, someone fully informed on the challenges and able to weigh options judiciously, then this looks to be madness.