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Friday, December 15, 2017

Published with permission from AlterNet

Billed as a major foreign policy speech, the Republican presidential candidate devoted most of it to fear-mongering.

In a speech billed as a major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump offered little actual foreign policy, other than to claim that in a Trump presidency, “the era of nation-building” will have ended. Instead, he criticized and often misrepresented the policies of President Barack Obama and his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Introducing Trump was former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who seemed to forget that the attacks of September 11, 2001, took place during the Bush administration when he claimed that there hadn’t been “any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the U.S.” in the eight years before Obama became president.

Instead of policymaking, Trump devoted a chunk of his speech to emphasizing his promise to subject immigrants to the United States to “an ideological screening test.”

“We should only admit those who share our values,” he told a crowd of supporters gathered at Ohio State University in Youngstown. “I call it extreme vetting.”

He never spelled out just which of “our values” he would test for. By “our values,” did he mean constitutional values? Free-market values? Christian values? Individualist values? Would it be a test that those who are already American citizens could pass, or more like the so-called literacy tests of the Jim Crow days? He never said. He did however, give one clue: It would be like the ideology test given to immigrants during the Cold War, which was designed to screen out communists.

Trump made the pledge toward the end of his speech, after reading off a list of mass shootings and terrorist attacks committed both in Europe and the United States that were committed by Muslims. All of the shootings in the U.S. he mentioned—Fort Hood, San Bernardino and Orlando—had one thing in common, he said: “They have involved immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

Apparently, in a Trump administration, the legal immigrant parents of adults who commit illegal acts would be on the hook for the actions of their grown children. (This would require a novel interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.)

No mention was made, of course, of the many mass shootings in the U.S. by Christians and other non-Muslims. Trump is nurturing that all-important endorsement he received from the National Rifle Association, which famously went silent after Adam Lanza’s rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children and six educators dead. (Perhaps noteworthy is the fact that Steve Feinberg, CEO of the firm that owns Remington Arms—maker of the Bushmaster rifle used by Lanza—is on Trump’s economic team.)

“Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country,” Trump said, issuing a standard that Trump himself would be unlikely to meet.

The point of Trump’s address was obviously to foment fear, and to offer his authoritarian remedy, a test to determine who among immigrants believe differently than he or his followers do.

In a blatant appeal to right-wing Christian evangelical voters, Trump characterized the terrorism waged by ISIS against the West as a war against Christendom. In truth, ISIS conducts horrific violence on people of every faith—including Muslims—who are not on its team. But that didn’t stop him from claiming that ISIS “is rounding up what it calls the Nation of the Cross… for genocide.”

He reiterated his plan to halt immigration from some of the “most volatile nations in the world,” but did not name them, leaving his plan a bit elastic and arbitrary.

The Republican standard-bearer reversed course on his July declaration of NATO as an “obsolete” organization to which U.S. commitments were dispensable, taking credit for NATO’s announcement of its counter-terrorism effort, which actually appears to have been undertaken in June with the treaty organization’s appointment of an intelligence chief.

He did offer this bit of foreign policy, though, regarding his good friend, Vladimir Putin: “I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS,” Trump said. “They, too, have much at stake in the outcome in Syria, and have had their own battles with Islamic terrorism.”

News reports from Syria say that Russian airstrikes on behalf of the murderous Assad regime are killing countless civilians—the very refugees that Trump would bar from entry to the U.S.

In the end, you could say that Trump is proposing a new foreign policy, after all—one that would ally the United States with the Russian dictator.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

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