"In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country," Trump declared, drawing guffaws from some in attendance.
Visibly surprised by the reaction, Trump broke away from his script to smile and look around the room. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he said.
While the US President handled the moment about as well as could be expected, the snickering underscored ongoing tensions between the US and its traditional allies at the United Nations. MSNBC described the laughter as “a reaction no modern American leader has confronted in such a setting”.
when Trump said his administration may have accomplished more than any in American history, members of UN General Assembly laughed
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 25, 2018
Trump’s speech also poured scorn on the worth of the United Nations as a concept. “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” he said. He urged other member nations to prioritise their own sovereignty and national self-interest as he said the US would do.
“America is governed by Americans,” he said as he turned to one of his favourite themes, US aid to foreign countries. He said the US would be “taking a hard look” at which countries receive this assistance.
“Moving forward we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us, and frankly, who are our friends,” he said.
'We reject globalism.' President took his 'America First' message to the United Nations https://t.co/NbYe8sQjqV
— TIME (@TIME) September 25, 2018
Trump also used his address to put Iran on notice
Elsewhere in Trump’s 35-minute speech, he focused on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. He said the “corrupt dictatorship” in place in Iran continues to destabilise the region and act as a breeding ground for terrorists and militant groups in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Mr Trump told the annual gathering. “They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continued the ongoing war of words later in the day, telling the audience Trump suffers from a “weakness of intellect”.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 25, 2018
Trump’s speech marked the second time he has addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Last year, Trump turned his attention to terrorism in the Middle East and attacked Iran was harbouring terrorists. “We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology,” President Trump said.
He also vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US or any allied nations. “If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,” he said. His speech was also notable for attacking the intergovernmental model of the United Nations itself.
Earlier in 2018, The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the US was withdrawing from the UN Security Council in a move seen as a rebuke to internationalism.
Pew didn’t survey Norway, but in Sweden, Trump is 83 points less popular than Obama, the biggest drop recorded anywhere https://t.co/RuOUDkPfH4
— David Frum (@davidfrum) January 11, 2018
Trust in the US has eroded under Trump
Earlier in 2018, polling showed confidence in the US has plummeted internationally under Trump’s leadership. The only OECD nations where approval of the US has risen are Israel and Poland, while the most marked rise in support for the US was seen in Russia.
Overall, approval of the US fell from 48% in the Obama years to 30% under Trump. Across Europe, only 25% of survey respondents approve dof the US, down from 44% in 2016. The disapproval rate was 56%
The US President campaigned on a platform of isolationism and has consistently rejected the notion of the US playing a role as global leader under his administration.
Header image: Gage Skidmore