President Donald Trump ran on an “America First” policy, but his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland seems to be turning against that policy as the United States ranking falters.
The Steve Bannon-influenced policy is taking a shift, however. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump seems to be backtracking from the “America First” policy he sold to voters.
“This is about an America First agenda, but America First does mean working with the rest of the world,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the media Wednesday morning.
The sentiment was echoed by Trump’s National Economic Council chief Gary Cohn. “America First is not America alone,” he said.
During Trump’s inauguration speech just over a year ago, he cited the policy as a new vision that is different from any other administration in history.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern…it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said.
The phrase first appeared in March 2016 during a New York Times interview in which Trump claimed he wasn’t supporting isolationism but that the U.S. should come first.
An extensively researched report from The Atlantic explained the history of the phrase that dates back to isolationism during World War II and anti-Semitism. They cited the America First Committee (AFC), founded in 1940 to oppose the U.S. involvement in the war. The group condemned Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration for advocating entering the war.
Bannon, who advocated the “America First” policy and ensured it was included in Trump’s inaugural speech, cited specific policies that fall under the umbrella. According to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Trump and Bannon’s “view [of] foreign relations is a zero-sum game.”
“Trump’s and Bannon’s version of ‘America First’ is no less dangerous,” than the World War II isolationism and anti-Semitism, according to Reich. “It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad, and risking everything we love about our country.”
Trump, on the other hand, claims that America’s standing in the world has never been better. After returning from the “longest in history” trip to Asia, Trump told members of the press the U.S. standing is on the rise.
“This great respect showed very well our country is — further evidence that America’s renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now,” Trump said. “When we are confident in ourselves, our strength, our flag, our history, our values — other nations are confident in us. And when we treat our citizens with the respect they deserve, other countries treat America with the respect that our country so richly deserves.”
He repeated the sentiment during the campaign rally outside of Alabama for failed senate candidate Roy Moore. “The world is starting to respect the United States of America again,” Trump said. The facts don’t verify the claim.
While Reich’s editorial was authored a year ago and Trump has spent the year claiming America is more respected, the reality shows something different. As if Reich foreshadowed it, the standing of the United States has actually fallen under Trump.
Gallup World Poll surveyed 134 countries between March and November 2017 and findings revealed that not only has the perception of U.S. leadership abroad dropped, allies of the U.S. have too. According to Gallup, countries that stand with the U.S. also saw dramatic drops in approval rates for American leadership. Opinions of the U.S. leadership fell 40 points under Trump, something that never happened under former President Barack Obama, despite Trump’s claims.
The disapproval numbers for the United States are so high it even set a record. Trump’s “like it or lump it” policies for to foreign policy and global relations could be driving the decline, Gallup said in the analysis.
The public seems to agree. A poll from The Economist/Yougov conducted in December, 52 percent of those surveyed say the U.S. is less respected in the world. Only 21 percent think the U.S. is more respected and 36 percent don’t think there was any change.
Trump’s list of international flubs include allegedly referring to countries as “sh*thole countries” such as Haiti and African nations, the claim NATO is obsolete, pulling out of trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and stoking nuclear war fanatic Kim Jong-Un of North Korea.