As part of my membership in the Watcher’s Council, I get the opportunity to contribute to the weekly council forum, the most recent of which concerned President Trump’s inaugural speech. I’ve written about the speech already (twice, actually), but I took yet another approach in the forum and would like to share it here. In addition to reading my take, I also strongly urge you to check out, not only this week’s forum, but all of the offerings at WOW! Magazine, which is a collaborative effort featuring some stunningly good conservative bloggers.
I thought the speech was masterful. It represented a return to founding principles contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Lincoln summarized the core principle in his Gettysburg Address: Unlike all other nations, now or in the past, America is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Trump opened by reminding the people that government has become a self-serving entity that has no regard for the people’s needs — and their needs are great. Trump promised to return government to the people: to make it smaller and more user-friendly, rather than a vast behemoth that serves a narrow Blue segment in Washington, D.C., and America’s more expensive enclaves.
The speech also put America first in a way that we should all understand. “America First” does not mean nationalistic world conquest. In fact, when America is coming first, it means the opposite.
Since WWII, America has born the responsibility for caring for the rest of the world. It willingly shouldered that burden, both because it was the last intact First World country standing after WWII and because it saw its responsibilities as part of its own battle against communism in the Cold War.
Sadly, in exchange for America’s blood and money, the rest of the world has responded with insults and attacks. Moreover, now that the Cold War has officially ended and America is engaged in a hot war with radical Islam, the rest of the world — except for Israel — is not only insulting America, it’s routinely aiding and abetting this existential enemy. Even worse, for the last eight years, our own president provided aid and succor to anti-American forces through the world.
It is time, therefore, for America, at least temporarily, to stop being the world’s banker, policeman, and nanny. America has exhausted its financial resources and good will on a singularly ungrateful world. America needs to see to its own needs. That is, it really must put itself first if it is to survive. Once America has regrouped — strengthened its economy, secured its borders, and increased its national security, including helping its few stalwart allies around the world — then, and only then, can it see whether its future wealth and security will benefit from venturing forth once again into the greater world.
One last thing: For all the accessible vocabulary and sentence structure — that is, this was not an academically complex and erudite speech — it’s worth noting that Trump managed to pack an amazing number of important principles into those 20 minutes. As I learned long ago reading Supreme Court opinions, the best ideas, principles, laws, and facts are the ones that can be expressed in the most straightforward terms. When a writer or speaker gets very complicated and starts spinning vast webs of words, that person is outright lying to you or at least hoping you’ll miss various sins of omission.
You can read here what other WOW! members had to say about the inaugural speech. They express a number of different viewpoints, but all of them give the inaugural speech positive reviews and are pleased with where our nation is heading.
UPDATE: I just realized that Trump actually harked back to the Founders in another way. This is from George Washington’s Farewell Address:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
As was the case with WWII, the Cold War, and 9/11, sometimes the foreign world drags us in but, as a general matter America, Washington advised America to minister to her own affairs rather than becoming entangled in another’s.
It is in America’s interests to cultivate nations that align with it in the existential war against Islam fundamentalism. It is not in America’s interest to invest money in or let herself by controlled by those nations that refuse to join in this fight.