For someone like me, there was a lot to like about President Trump’s speech before the United Nations. I particularly appreciated the blasts at three rogue, or at least despicable, governments: in North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. I wish to make some points that I have not seen much in coverage.
‐At the top of his speech, Trump said, “Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th.” I believe that, if a new Democratic president said this, everyone on the right would pounce on it.
I can just hear us: “What a horse’s-behind thing to say. An American president does not engage in partisan politicking in an address before the United Nations. He represents all of us there.”
We would be right.
‐Trump said, “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.”
I’m not sure why these two duties are “sovereign.” I think that “sovereign” was merely the word of the day.
Consider this phrase from Trump: “to respect the interests of their own people.” I would have said “rights,” rather than “interests.” Dictators think that they, and they alone, determine the interests of the people under their control.
Trump did say “the rights of every other sovereign nation.” Governments should respect “the rights of every other sovereign nation.” But not to oppress people, surely.
The other day, I did a podcast with George Will. We talked about “America First,” which is counterposed to “globalism.” Will mentioned our American heritage, articulated in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
At Gettysburg, Lincoln affirmed that we are “dedicated to a proposition” — namely, “that all men are created equal.”
You don’t have to be a pansy “globalist” to appreciate the American heritage, and the American purpose, I trust.
‐Trump said, “We can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.” This is Trump’s perpetual theme: America the Screwed, America the Victim, America the Sucker. Where does he get this?
Go around the world, and people think that America is Top Dog. And they are right.
‐I was a little startled at the word “the.” Trump said, “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.” I appreciate the sentiment, which was not guaranteed from Trump. But “the Ukraine”?
I remember when I first heard “Ukraine,” without the “the” — it was from Robert Conquest, speaking to some of us students in the 1980s. He had written a book on the Kremlin’s terror-famine in Ukraine.
Conquest explained that people supporting Ukrainian nationhood said “Ukraine,” whereas others said “the Ukraine,” which seemed to acknowledge Ukraine as a mere region of the Soviet Union or Russia.
I grew up saying “the Ukraine,” same as Trump, no doubt. It was very hard to drop the “the.” It sounded so strange. My mouth could barely do it. But then I learned. “Ukraine” versus “the Ukraine” is an important distinction. Also, it took me a long time to say “Sudan” instead of “the Sudan.”
By the way, I once got a piece from Paul Johnson which referred to “the Lebanon.” I loved that.
‐Trump said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
North Koreans — ordinary North Koreans — will hear that, or at least some of them will. The regime may well use it. Broadcast it. What will people think? What would you think?
The president should have said “totally destroy the North Korean dictatorship,” in my opinion.