Closer to the Oval Office than ever before—about three and a half blocks—Donald J. Trump laid out his philosophical framework Wednesday at a Washington hotel for “the most peaceful and prosperous century the world has ever known,” a halcyon era that will be based on his own unique understanding of a fractious, bleeding globe.
Speaking to a cordial, but far from hysterical, think-tank audience of inside-the-Beltway deep-thinkers convened by the Center for the National Interest, the billionaire who presumes himself to be the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party predicted that, under a Trump Administration, Islamic State “will be gone very, very quickly” and that “we’re getting out of the nation-building business.”
“The legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be confusion, disarray, a mess,” Trump said. “This will all change when I become president.”
The New York mogul pledged, that “the world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies,” but that, should he ever need to project American military power beyond the nation’s borders, he will seek “victory with a capital V,”
“We will replace randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.” Trump avowed in one uncharacteristically lyrical passage of his 40-minute tone poem. “I’m the only one, believe me. I know how to do it.”
The Donald’s oration, billed as “a major foreign-policy address,” was a measured, punctilious, dys-Trumpian recitation of what sounded like a speechwriter’s words. (He even read from a TelePrompTer, negating his own declaration that “if you’re running for president, you shouldn’t be allowed to use” one.) It came the day after he swept like a faux-blond tornado across five Northeastern states, winning not only at least 100 or more convention delegates out of the 110 in play, but prevailing in the popular vote in every single county of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
Trump declared—not for the first time—that the North American Free Trade Agreement* has been “a total disaster for the United States” and pledged that “we will no longer surrender this country nor its people to the false song of globalism.” But the “beautiful wall” on the Mexican border; the very, very bad national media; “Lyin, Ted” Cruz, and “1-for-38” (now 1-for-43) John Kasich—none of these was mentioned.
(As Trump spoke in Washington, Senator Ted Cruz was campaigning in Indiana, clumping The Donald with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as “wealthy liberals,” and naming failed candidate and former high-tech CEO Carly Fiorina to be his running mate for the duration of his race to second place. Meanwhile, the White House itself was locked down for the second day in a row when, according to the Secret Service, “a male individual threw personal belongings” over the fence.)
The setting for Trump’s valediction was the Presidential Ballroom of the capital’s gilt-edged Mayflower Hotel, adding another layer of history to the 91-year-old hostelry where Monica Lewinsky laid up during the Bill Clinton sex scandal, Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic Party nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, and J. Edgar Hoover ordered chicken soup, butter toast, grapefruit and iceberg lettuce for lunch every workday for 20 years, and brought his own diet salad dressing.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that Trump would mark the occasion by being “Dressed with the trappings of gravitas,” but he wore his customary dark suit, white shirt and red tie instead.
Trump devoted much of his address to a spirited bashing of Barack Obama and what he called the president’s “reckless, rudderless, and aimless” foreign misadventures. His words elicited scattered applause from the audience, which included several newly-named members of his foreign-policy and national-security team.
“Mr. Trump is taking about a sea-change in foreign policy, which we have to do, because the sea has changed,” Curtin Winsor, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica during the Ronald Reagan administration, told Maclean’s.
“Would you have dreamed a year ago that you would ever be attending a ‘major foreign-policy speech’ by Donald J. Trump?” a correspondent asked Winsor, who said that he had been part of the Trump brain trust “for about 12 hours.”
“I think he emerged for me at the same time he emerged for everybody else,” the ex-diplomat replied. “We saw him on TV articulating things that no one else was articulating.”
Only one piece of foreign news tarnished The Donald’s excellent day. This was a report from Brazil that a Trump-branded hotel in Rio de Janeiro may not be finished in time for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Honchos of seven international sports federations already have made alternate bookings, lest they be left out in the cold of a sub-equatorial winter.
“That is the one we fear,” one Olympic official told Bloomberg News, referring—unlike tens of millions of Americans —to the hotel, not the man.
CORRECTION, 27 April 2016: This story originally stated that Donald Trump referred to a North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement in his foreign-policy address. He actually referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Maclean’s regrets the error.