Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE called for the United States to “shake the rust off” its foreign policy and move toward an “America first” model in a focused effort Wednesday to outline how his potential administration would operate.
Trump repeatedly attacked President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPennsylvania GOP authorizes subpoenas in election probe We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE in his 40-minute address and rejected the framework of international coalitions that has been a hallmark of the Democratic administration.
“We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” Trump promised during Wednesday’sclosely scrutinized address from a Washington hotel.
“Americans must know that we’re putting the American people first again,” he added.
“On trade, on immigration, on foreign policy, the jobs, incomes and security of the American worker will always be my first priority,” he said. “Both our friends and our enemies put their countries above ours, and we — while being fair to them — must start doing the same.”
Despite being relatively short on concrete policy specifics, Trump’s address offered the clearest look yet at his deep distrust of the international architecture that has dominated since the end of World War II in a sign of what a Trump administration might look like.
Trump delivered the address with the aid of a teleprompter to a smaller and much less boisterous crowd than is typical of his campaign rallies, which was interpreted as an attempt to unify the party after winning all five Northeastern primaries on Tuesday.
The audience of policy officials and think tank analysts responded with tepid applause, and reaction throughout Republican circles in Washington was generally mixed.
Supporters of the billionaire real estate mogul reveled in his willingness to abandon the U.S.’s integral role in global alliances, which they believe have benefited Americans minimally.
Critics pointed to apparent contradictions in the remarks and a lack of concrete specifics to claim that his ideas would undermine the U.S.’s role in the world.
“It was pathetic in its content, and it was scary in terms of its construct,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (R-S.C.) said in a radio interview after Trump’s address. “Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave after this speech.”
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, said Trumpdelivered a “very good foreign policy speech.”
“I look forward to hearing more details, but in a year where angry rhetoric has defined the presidential race on both sides of the aisle, it is my hope that candidates in both parties will begin focusing not only on the problems we face but on solutions,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “I believe today’s speech could be an important step in that direction.”
Trump’s prescription for elevating American stature around the world was to force new diplomatic negotiations and “be willing to walk” if the U.S. does not get its desired results.
If elected president, Trump promised to convene American allies from NATO and Asia for summits to discuss “a rebalancing of financial commitments” and also the adoption of “new strategies for tackling our common challenges,” such as terrorism and migration.
His skepticism of international alliances is one the many areas that have raised concern from foreign policy analysts, including prominent Republicans.
On Wednesday, he only briefly mentioned his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, which “will help us to prevent the next San Bernardino or, frankly, much worse.”
Critics have also been alarmed by his demand that Mexico pay for a wall along its border with the U.S., the suggestion that Japan and South Korea obtain nuclear weapons, and his support for extreme military action that could qualify as war crimes, none of which were explicitly mentioned on Wednesday.
The omissions hint at the apparent efforts within Trump’s campaign to back away from some of his more extreme tendencies as he marches closer to securing the GOP nomination.
His campaign has previously suggested Trump would begin offering a more restrained and “presidential” image as he gets closer to securing the GOP nomination. However, the front-runner has appeared to backtrack on that planned evolution in recent days.
Trump’s previous efforts to reassure the think tank class in Washington have had mixed results.
His newly assembled team of national security advisers left many Washington hands scratching their heads, and Trump has yet to surround himself with the types of veterans that would normally complement a leading presidential candidate.
On Wednesday, Trump indicated that would not change anytime soon.
“We have to look to new people, because many of the old people, frankly, don’t know what they’re doing, even though they may look awfully good writing in The New York Times or being watched on television,” he said.
Trump first used the phrase “America first” during an interview with the Times earlier this year, but its origins date back decades. The name originally referred to skeptics of U.S. involvement in World War II, though Trump has so far declined to draw a connection with the history.
That absence, critics said on Wednesday, suggests he is unaware of the movement.
“If you don’t know enough history to know that that was the movement that tried to keep America out of World War II … that’s almost a disqualifier right there,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill MORE (D-Va.), who has been listed as a potential running mate for Clinton, on a conference call organized by her campaign.
“I thought that his real title should have been ‘Blame America first,’ ” he added. “It’s not America’s fault that nations around the world aren’t governing correctly.”