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Reactions To Trump’s UN Speech Varied
Donald Trump’s first speech as president to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Tuesday came as no surprise to anyone who’s been listening to his rhetoric. With bombast he stressed his “America first” approach, bragged, threatened, insulted, and behaved much the way we’ve come to expect from him.
It’s hard to know what the North Korean delegation thought when he called their leader “Rocket Man…on a suicide mission,” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the nation forced the U.S. and its allies to defend themselves. Their seats were empty.
As Trump described the Iranian regime as “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy,” TV cameras caught “a member of Iranian delegation [as he] fiddled with a cellphone, then slipped on eyeglasses,” as CNN described it. The Iranians perked up and listened as he described the nuclear control deal with them as “the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and an “embarrassment” to America. That nation’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted afterward: ”Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st Century UN.”
He also slammed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s rule as a “corrupt regime” that has “destroyed a prosperous nation by ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried.” After the speech, the country’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Trump used “racist and supremacist” notions in his address. “We do not accept threats from President Trump or whoever in this world… we want relations of mutual respect.”
Just to make sure no one he wanted to scourge was left out, Trump also said that major portions of the world “are going to hell.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Trump met with the day before, tweeted praise.
In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 19, 2017
Margot Wallstrom, foreign minister of Sweden, found it “a bombastic, nationalist speech….This was a speech at the wrong time to the wrong audience.”
Domestic reactions split along party lines. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) noted how “The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation. Today, the president used it as a stage to threaten war.” Her fellow Californian Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee also found it objectionable.
Dangerous rhetoric & abdication of values from Pres Trump at #UNGA. Congress must stand by the Iran deal & work to deescalate tensions w/ NK
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) September 19, 2017
John Bolton, former UN ambassador under George W. Bush described the speech as “his best yet as President.” Onetime presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, who had been critical of Trump in the past, changed his tune this time.
President Trump gave a strong and needed challenge to UN members to live up
to its charter and to confront global challenges.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 19, 2017
Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly didn’t comment on the speech. But cameras caught him at one point with his hand over his face as if he was embarrassed, and another time with his chin sitting on his interlocked fists looking frustrated.
There’s one thing that can surely be said about Trump’s 41 minute address at the center of international diplomacy. It was anything but diplomatic.