(Rich Galen, Mullings) – There is no weaker compliment than to say something like: President Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was pretty good – considering it was Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was very good.
My Twitter feed (@richgalen) is pretty heavily tilted toward national political reporters and columnists. They are pretty heavily tilted toward the Left. At one point in the speech I Tweeted that reading many on-the-go responses reminded me of watching a Bill Clinton State of the Union speech from Speaker Newt Gingrich’s office and scoffing at everything he was saying.
Silently, though, we knew he was nailing it.
In the pre-speech analysis the channels I watched all made certain we remembered all the awful things the President had said about Islam.
The Washington Post helpfully produced a listing of no less than 36 quotations for our viewing pleasure beginning with a 2011 radio interview in which he questioned Barack Obama’s religion.
The penultimate citation reminds us of Trump’s dramatic reading of “The Snake” at a rally in Pennsylvania celebrating (a) his 100th day in office and (b) that he wasn’t at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
The President did not shy from talking about terrorism: “We pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East — and maybe, even all over the world. But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.”
And, what I thought was the best line in the speech, “The path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.”
There were many who pointed out that the President was giving this speech in a country where proscriptions against women is so pervasive that they cannot drive and need a male relation’s permission to enter into most contracts, travel out of the country, and do very much else except walk to the market to shop.
It was also true that the only women visable – at least the only women I spotted in the Saudi-provided video feed, were Melania and Ivanka Trump. Both of the women had scheduled events that were apart from the President’s and both went without head scarves.
One of the major Saudi newspapers, The Arab News, put it this way:
“Melania Trump before leaving the United States vs. Melania while landing in Saudi Arabia. Respect for the country’s traditions,” one Twitter user said with a thumbs-up. “Not only modest, but elegant at the same time.”
The loose outfit almost resembled the traditional black abaya – a loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress – worn by Saudi women.
The no-headscarf-look for American female government officials in Saudi Arabia has long been permitted by the U.S. State Department and tolerated by Saudis.
In the speech the President effusively thanked Saudi king Salman for hosting the meeting that included heads-of-state from some 55 leaders of regional nations were in the audience and President Trump’s speech included shout outs to many of them.
Over $300 billion in defense and commercial deals were signed by the President and by U.S. business leaders who attended a parallel business development conference deals which Trump said would result in “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
No one will ever confuse Donald Trump’s oratory skills with Winston Churchill’s. But, it appeared her stuck to the script, spoke in measured tones (allowing the simultaneous translators a chance to do their jobs), and appeared to have sold the deal.
There were no interruptions for applause, and the only people who appeared to stand and applaud after the speech were the Americans.
On the other hand, no one interrupted King Salman’s speech with applause, either.
There are a lot of moving parts to this trip, and this was only day two of a nine-day swing. It will not surprise me if Donald Trump stumbles rhetorically or otherwise at some point between Riyadh and landing at Joint Base Andrews.
According to BBC, Monday and Tuesday are to be spent in Israel (which the BBC did not name but said would include visits to “Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank”), then onto Rome, Brussels (for a NATO meeting), and ending in Sicily for a G-7 meeting.
All that is to come, but Sunday he had one job: Deliver a good speech.
The Speech in Riyadh was a success.
Mr. Galen is a veteran political strategist and communications consultant. He blogs at www.Mullings.com.