Two years before he would become the president of the United States, Donald Trump said that America had become the “laughingstock” of the world. But on Tuesday, Trump himself embodied that word.
The president’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly drew gasps, giggles and even scornful laughter in New York, reports the New Yorker. When Trump claimed that his administration had already delivered more in his two years of being president than any previous administration, the remarkable crowd comprising of more than 130 heads of states could not contain their laughter.
“I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s O.K.,” Trump was forced to concede awkwardly, drawing even more scorn. This is perhaps the first time that a sitting American president drew such a reaction at the United Nations.
Trump later tried to salvage his speech by saying that he had intended to draw laughter, but that appears unlikely. It is telling that during a week in which the president is supposed to discuss matters of international importance including Iran and North Korea with his counterparts, he has been mired in controversies ranging from sexual assault allegations against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the impending saga regarding the ouster of the country’s second highest law enforcement official, Rod Rosenstein.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Trump from belittling international organizations the world has worked tirelessly toward building since the end of the Second World War and delivering a speech full of rhetoric about how modern countries needed to start taking care of themselves.
“America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Inside everyone in this great chamber today, and everyone listening all around the globe, there is the heart of a patriot that feels the same powerful love for your nation, the same intense loyalty to your homeland.”
UN members laugh at Trump after 'most accomplishments in US history' claim pic.twitter.com/bc3xM7TlAM— The Independent (@Independent) September 25, 2018
Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that Trump’s juxtaposition of “patriotism and globalism” reeked of style over substance. It is worth remembering that it was in front of the same crowd last year that Donald Trump had mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the “Little Rocket Man” but on Tuesday, the American president lauded him for his “courage” and called him “terrific.” Haass said Trump’s speech was reminiscent of the deranged antics of Howard Beale, the anchorman who went to crazy lengths to elicit a response from his audience in the 1976 movie Network.
Moreover, analysts say that while Trump mentioned the need to restore democracy in Venezuela and Iran, he conveniently omitted any mention of Russia’s cyber warfare practices. It is one reason why Robert Kagan, writer of The Jungle Grows Back, believes that the assembled crowd at the UN General Assembly did not take Trump seriously.
“Trump says the United States will work with those nations that share our values. But, unfortunately, the democratic world knows that he doesn’t share their values. The values he shares are those of right-wing nationalists in Europe, in Russia, in Israel, and of the dictators of the Middle East.”
It is possible then that despite what he may think, Trump became a “laughingstock” in front of the democratic world on Tuesday — literally — potentially betraying the mistrust and apathy much of the world seems to reserve for him.