If Steve Bannon watched the speech, he would have probably cried.
Even in the unscripted Q&A afterward, Trump didn’t veer off message. The most contentious thing he said was a seemingly obligatory shot at the media — “how nasty, how mean, and how fake” — met with boos from some of the attendees. But the attacks on China or immigrants that typify Trump’s improvisational comments on globalization simply didn’t show up.
This morning was a clear victory for the conventional members of the Trump administration — National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — who have long been pushing Trump in this direction. With Steve Bannon out of the administration and marginalized, the highest-level policy advisers in the Trump administration generally do not share the president’s instinctive hostility toward the global order — and today, it showed.
Will this stick? That’s impossible to say with a president this mercurial. Just a few days before this speech, Trump slapped punishing tariffs on imported solar panels — which expert analyses suggest will reduce the number of US homes powered by solar by 1.2 million. Hostility to free trade is still very much present in the White House.
But today, the pro-globalization side won. When the president said, “America First does not mean America alone,” it almost sounded like he meant it.