Two weeks before he was unleashed on the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump gave a speech in Bismarck, North Dakota, supposedly to outline his plans on tax reform.
(A quick aside for the historically-minded: Bismarck is named after the Iron Chancellor who invented realpolitik and Germany. Could there be a starker contrast?)
Trump’s speech lasted 40 minutes, but before you rush to YouTube, I can give you the gist in one sentence. Lower taxes for everyone listening (applause) including the already fabulously wealthy (no applause because he missed this bit out); simpler tax code (applause); and he will allow repatriation of corporate foreign earnings that ‘just can't come back’ (they can, but they would be taxed).
Now standard operating procedure with the President these days is to give him a script to read off the teleprompter. The hope is that this will conceal the worst of his ignorance, limit his outbursts of bigotry and chauvinism, and prevent World War III. But it doesn’t work because he repeatedly goes off script and in Bismarck he careered off into a bizarre train wreck of gibberish. Let me quote the official White House transcript:
North Dakota is an inspiring example of the amazing things that are possible when we unleash the genius of American innovators, unite the red tape, and I’ll tell you -- and we have to unite everything. And all that red tape becomes beautiful when you get rid of it. And we're getting rid of -- are we getting rid of a lot of red tape, by the way?
And my admiration goes to the presidential scribe who faithfully records such nonsense for the edification of future generations.
Watch the video and you see that Trump’s eyes move front and centre (i.e. off the teleprompters) right after he says ‘unite the red tape’. From then on it’s Trump ad lib drivel all the way down.
Trumpologists offer two explanations. One is the script had a typo of ‘unite’ instead of ‘untie’; the second (and my money is on this one) is that the partially dyslexic Trump misread ‘untie’ as ‘unite’.
Ignore the fact that ‘unite’ makes no sense. Trump will make it make sense by burying it under an instant pile of verbal diarrhoea that makes even less sense.
This was all a good dress rehearsal for his UN gig. Here, what are called the White House grownups snuck into his script a surprising number of nice things for him to say about the UN itself.
Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.
Who could he be referring to? President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines? Can’t be; Trump said he is ‘doing an unbelievable job’. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan? No, Trump says ‘he’s getting very high marks’ and ‘is becoming a friend of mine’. And Russia’s Vladimir Putin of course is helping Trump run the US. Or at least win elections there.
As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.
So the duty of Kim Jong-un is to ensure the safety of the citizens of North Korea by putting North Korea first. Unless Trump objects to the way he’s doing it, of course. And on North Korea:
It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.
And guess who is #4 on the list of outrageous nations selling to the Koreans? Yes, our very own military government. And recall that in the dark post-coup days of 2014 when nobody wanted to talk to us, the Education Ministry planned educational exchanges, because Adm Narong Pipatanasai, minister at the time, and the N Korean Ambo agreed that the two countries’ education systems were ‘similar’.
Then, after extolling the virtues of nations working ‘together in close harmony and unity, to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people’, Trump gave his vision of this more safe and peaceful future for North Korea:
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.
The Geneva Conventions forbid attacks on civilians, either direct attacks or indiscriminate attacks against areas in which civilians are present. One might question whether the total destruction of North Korea is the ‘only choice’. But it is unquestionably a war crime. And unfortunately I don’t think he misread this bit.
I wonder why he didn’t call it the ‘Untied Nations’.