Trump & Obama: A Tale of Two Speeches

DONALD TRUMP’S RIYADH SPEECH, MAY 2017


BARACK OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH, JUNE 2009

Trump’s Statesmanlike Speech in Riyadh

Elliott Abrams, National Review, May 21, 2017

 … any balanced strategy will require continued close partnerships with our regional allies to expand and improve the effectiveness of counter messaging programs, especially online. The inclusion of the Saudi Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on the president’s itinerary was a good sign, but since September 11, 2001 we have seen far too many such initiatives fall short…. Although counter-messaging and counter-radicalization programs are not a cure all, they are a vital part of any strategy especially as America invests in its more military-focused initiatives.

Trump Changed His Tone on Islam—Will He Change Strategy?

Michael Leiter, The Atlantic, May 22, 2017

But the President’s address reflected a more substantive break. By focusing on Muslim governments rather than people, and by focusing on terrorism rather than the broader conditions of the Middle East that catalyze volatility and violence, he broke with his two immediate predecessors’ strategies for engaging the Muslim world.

Trump’s Speech in Riyadh Puts Ball Squarely in Court of Muslim-Led Governments to Fight Terrorism

Eric Trager, The Washington Institute for Near East Studies, May 21, 2017

Most important was Trump’s willingness to point to the ideology of Islamism as the enemy. This matters exceedingly for, just as a physician must first identify a medical problem before treating it, so a strategist must identify the enemy before defeating it. To talk about “evildoers,” “terrorists,” and “violent extremists” is to miss the enemy’s Islamic core.

‘This Wasn’t a Speech About Islam’

Mustafa Akyol and Wajahat Ali, The New York Times, May 21, 2017

I’m not a naïve, wide-eyed idealist and I didn’t drink the Halal Kool aid. I knew the bar was exceedingly low, so all Trump would have to do is stay on script, not say anything egregiously offensive and it would be considered an “improvement.” Which it was.  Mustafa Akyol: … I agree that it definitely did not come out as advertised…. This was a more modest, narrow and pragmatic speech, mostly appealing to Muslim leaders — in fact, only Sunni ones — for more cooperation against terrorism. But given Mr. Trump’s earlier views on Islam, it could have been worse!

 

Is America on track to be the Great Satan again?

Is America on track to be the Great Satan again?

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This week I published an essay in The Japan Times about the perception some have of America as a Great Satan. This piece explores the nomination of Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the world. Is this a sign of a Trump administration embrace of corporatization of foreign policy? I’ve always been troubled by too much top-down, for-profit focus in American foreign policy. This was the subject of my first book, Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World.

Clinton Towers Trump in First Debate

hillary-clinton-in-shinkansenIt’s too early to call the election but if the vote were held in Japan, Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide. This is a non-scientific poll since I’m basing this on the audible gasp from my students when the race was reported “neck and neck” before the Hofstra debate.

[If you are in the mood for a lengthier treatise on the first debate, check out my Clinton Towered Trump Huffington Post blog.]

What did Hillary Clinton do right? Plenty. She was calm in Trump’s storm. She was prepared and full of pokes and zingers to get Trump off his game.

Two weeks ago it was Hillary Clinton unsteady on her feet. In Hempstead, New York, it was Trump looking and sounding frustrated and unfocused.

What did Donald Trump do wrong? He was too “Donald being Donald.” He interrupted. He forgot (God forbid) that he was always on camera, thanks to that pro-Hillary split screen. In the general election season, all six weeks of it left before November 8, Trump will need to act more like what too many are frightened to imagine: President Trump.

It’s still possible for him to TRiUMPh, but he will have to be more disciplined, calm, and steady in the next two debates. He is now facing a candidate who doesn’t fear him, is not intimidated, and is red power suit ready!

 

Caroline Kennedy’s Japan Greeting (US Embassy Tokyo)

In this video message, the new ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, delivers a personal “Ohayo Gozaimasu” from her home in New York. She studied Japanese history in college, traveled to Hiroshima with her Uncle Ted when she was 20, and spent part of her honeymoon in Nara and Kyoto. I welcome her as America’s newest ambassador and believe that she will be an excellent cultural mediator between the U.S. and Japan.

Japan: Much Love and Thanks

I cannot believe that our semester together at Sophia University is coming to an end.  I very much look forward to your final papers.  As you know, they are due Wednesday, August 1, 2012.  I’ve asked you to create something new out of your imagination.  Your paper is a blueprint for your own self-designed organization to tell America’s cultural story to the world.  (In the politics and policy class, you must tell America’s foreign policy story to the world.)

I am making you the architect, the visionary, and CEO of this new agency.  What is your main theme? What organizational divisions will you have, e.g., exchanges, international broadcasting, arts, online?  How is it different from the way I describe the United States Information Agency in Propaganda, Inc.?  Would you include celebrities in your public diplomacy?  Why or why not?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with you these past three months.  The time flew by, as it always does when one is having a ball, as I have been.  I love your culture, your manners, and your commitment to learning.  I hope that some of you will consider study abroad in the United States.  I hope you all will never stop learning.  I am your sensei, but always your student, as there is so much left for me to learn about Japan, its politics, culture, people, and yes, as “Lights of Japan” put it, its resilience.  Our time together has inspired me to learn some Japanese.  I’ll never reach a level of fluency but I plan to learn enough Japanese to show my respect for your culture.  (I’ve already ordered flash cards and three books!)

I don’t wish to get too overly sentimental about what this time together has meant to my life.  Why don’t I have Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders explain what I mean.  Thank you for helping to show me the meaning of the word.

Saving Aesha, Saving Afghanistan

Watch this inspiring story about Aesha, the young woman from Afghanistan, who became the “face” of Taliban brutality in Afghanistan when her disfigured face was displayed on the cover of an August 2010 issue of Time magazine.

The CNN video is about Aesha’s life with an Afghan-American family in Frederick, Maryland.  Her caregivers consider her a daughter but as they point out in the piece, she has a very long journey of recovery.  She is enthusiastically learning English and has the well wishes of everyone around the world who see her as a symbol of overcoming the worst brutality and doing so in such a public forum.  I hope that Aesha can handle all the media scrutiny and not get lost in her celebrity.  She has now begun reconstructive surgery, a difficult process that will likely take the next two years.  You can read about her progress here.

I bring this video to you as a source of inspiration for a country that continues to occupy the world’s attention.  On July 8, 2012, the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan promised $16 billion in ODA (official development assistance) for Afghanistan.  The aid package for Afghanistan was announced as yet another horrific news story emerged this week of a 22-year-old woman shot in public for an accusation of adultery.  Her life was ended in less than an hour as a result of a dispute between two Taliban commanders who claim that she was sexually involved with both of them.  To settle the dispute, they decided to execute her in front of hundreds of cheering Taliban fighters.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this about the Tokyo conference aid package:

Let me emphasize that the United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve sustainable peace, reconciliation, stability, and economic growth if half the population is not empowered.  All citizens need to have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress, and the United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan.

As a public speaker I love words, but words alone will not save Afghanistan.  I wonder if these billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan will improve the status of women and girls in a country where they continue to be singled out for discrimination at best and public execution at worst.  My faith is not in the Afghanistan government but rather the collective efforts of human rights workers and global citizens who demand action against the Taliban and their supporters who continue to terrorize their own people.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

In the spirit of America’s Independence week, I present to you this citizenship test.  Write down these ten questions from the U.S. citizenship test and answer them before you click on the answers.

In order to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, a person must correctly answer six of 10 randomly selected questions. Can you pass the test?

1. What are the colors of our flag?

2. How many stripes are there in the flag?

3. What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?

4. What are the three branches of our government?

5. Can you name the original thirteen states?

6. What are the 49th and 50th states of the Union?

7. Who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner?”

8. Who signs bills into law?

9. What are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution called?

10. In what month do we vote for the president?

How did you do?

If you didn’t do that well, you are not alone.  It seems many Americans are not too aware of our history, much less our current government leaders.  Consider this quote:

However, the names of some of our current leaders slipped the minds of a few, for example, the leader of the executive branch (President Barack Obama) and his second-in-command (Vice President Joe Biden) seemed even harder for some.

Not to worry, however.  These types of press reports regularly appear to remind us of our ignorance.  They perpetuate the stereotype that Americans are either (a) oblivious to what’s going on in the world and at home or (b) oblivious to what’s going on in the world and at home.  (The choices are the same on purpose.)  While it is true that many Americans may miss a lot of these basic questions, I don’t believe that we should jump to the most negative of conclusions.  After all, it’s hard to keep up with the knowledge that Barack Obama is the leader of the executive branch of government and Joe Biden is his second-in-command when we have to keep up with the Joneses and the Kardashians. (Yes, that is the sound of sar hitting casm.)

Question: Why do I still love America?

Answer: Our potential.