Trump lashed out at China
and critics of his climate-change-denying environmental record, celebrated sparse diplomatic achievements and lied about the US fight against the pandemic. His speech encapsulated how he wields power abroad — in service of domestic and personal political goals, rather than based on a traditional calculation of wider US interests.
All Trump's foreign moves are expected to pull their political weight at home. When he wanted a trade deal with Beijing, Trump was Chinese President Xi Jinping's best friend
— offering unwarranted praise over his pandemic leadership. But when his own disastrous handling of the virus threatened hopes of a second term, he chose China as a scapegoat even at the expense of triggering a new Cold War. The US pullout from the Iran nuclear deal left Tehran closer to a bomb, but it sure helped destroy Barack Obama's legacy. US-backed normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also aimed to please evangelicals in the US. And while the President's love fest with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did nothing to dismantle his nukes, it yielded great photo ops.
"Only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation," Trump told the General Assembly, encapsulating his "America First" creed, which upends 80 years of US global leadership. If he loses the election in six weeks, his speech will be remembered as a defiant, valedictory swipe. And if Joe Biden takes Trump's place at the UN next year, he'll face a world grown skeptical of America's staying power -- and foes who made hay in its absence.
'Our own 1945 moment'
Opening the day of leaders' speeches on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stuck a dark tone, calling the coronavirus pandemic and its effects "our own 1945 moment" -- a reference to the destruction of WWII. He also warned against th