Donald Trump takes the stage to deliver a foreign policy speech on Aprii 27 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said the United States must be more “unpredictable” if it is to defeat Islamic terrorism, and, if elected, vowed to bring in “new voices and new visions” to overhaul what he described as President Obama’s “reckless, rudderless and aimless foreign policy.”
In the first of a projected series of policy speeches, Trump trashed Obama for weakening the country by failing to present a “coherent” foreign policy and for allowing rivals such as China to “take advantage” of the United States. The GOP frontrunner said if he wins the presidency he would put “American security above all else,” and said his driving ideology for every policy decision will be “America first.”
“It is time to shake the rust off of America’s foreign policy,” Trump declared.
But the New York real estate mogul offered few specifics on how exactly he would do that. In a roughly 40-minute speech to a forum sponsored by the Center for the National Interest, a think tank founded by former President Richard Nixon, Trump offered mainly broad strokes about his foreign policy vision, reiterating themes he’s been discussing on the campaign trail for months — including his call for the United States to be less forthcoming about how it plans to target enemies like ISIS.
“We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable,“ Trump said. “We have to be unpredictable, starting now.”
As for ISIS, Trump vowed they will be gone “very, very quickly” if he wins the presidency.
“Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how,” he said, repeating a line he’s regularly used on the campaign trail. “But they are going to be gone, and soon.”
The speech Wednesday marked a departure for Trump, who, for only the second time as a presidential candidate, read his remarks from a Teleprompter. The effect was a more somber Trump compared to the boisterous, off-the-cuff candidate voters have seen on the stage in recent months. Trump’s appearance marked the first significant attempt by the candidate to show a more presidential side, in terms of policy, as he looks toward a general-election matchup with Hillary Clinton.
In the speech, he repeatedly tied Clinton to what he described as Obama’s “weak” foreign policy — suggesting that by electing her the country would simply continue down the same “failed” path. But without naming names, Trump also took aim at Republicans like former President George W. Bush, criticizing the Iraq War and insisting a Trump administration would be “getting out of the nation-building business,” which he said has resulted in little but “chaos.”
“It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western democracy,” Trump said. “In the Middle East, our goals must be to defeat terrorists and promote regional stability, not radical change. We need to be clear-sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies.”
Several times, Trump took direct aim at the foreign-policy establishment — insisting he would turn to “talented experts with new approaches” instead of relying on “those who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.”
Trump’s speech seemed to be directed not at Washington but at Republicans across the country who have voiced concerns about whether the brash real estate mogul has the temperament to serve as the commander in chief. Several times, Trump cast himself as someone who would be strong but also judicious about using force.
“Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are signs of strength,” Trump said, adding that he was looking to build a foreign policy that would “endure for several generations.”