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The Grande Finale?
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The Grande Finale?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As the country prepares to see if Trump can save a very divisive and ugly convention when he delivers his acceptance speech tonight, it already is necessary to consider the consequences and implications of two events which occurred on Wednesday; one obviously political and one less so but even more critical. On the one hand, there was the Cruz flap and the non-endorsement in his convention speech and on the other there was Trump’s extended interview with the New York Times dealing largely with national security and foreign policy.

Cruz is not a well –liked person on Capitol Hill or in any circle in Washington or within the Republican Party. His self-serving, 2020 campaign launch speech was a calculation. He needed to speak, would not endorse Trump, and would accept the heat (or booing) of the Convention. Cruz would not, however, walk away from the 2016 Trump coronation party with making his presence known.  It is clear now that no one can deny that he accomplished this.

Cruz couched his remarks, at least indirectly, on his classic Cruz version of Republican planks—family values and the importance of family. Cruz presented his larger agenda and continued to demand an apology for Trump’s routinely cast personal attack on him, his wife and his father. He knew full well that Trump apologizes to no one but only doubles down on his attacks. Like the plagiarized sections of Melania’s speech, the Cruz explosion will be part of what will make this convention memorable. It also underscores the challenge that Trump faces tonight when he faces country.  

While this was the political event of the day, the most serious indication about what a future Trump presidency might look like was spelled out in the details he gave about his ideas for a future Trump foreign policy and international relations. Clearly his ideas about making America great again begin by indeed adopting a foreign policy which will insist that America’s needs and interests come first. In fact, the America First theme which he articulated some weeks ago in his “major” foreign policy address, was clear in the interview and will undoubtedly be emphasized tonight.

Trump suggested that participation in the affairs of the world will be governed not by shared values or ideological considerations but strictly by America’s parochial needs. America’s allies or even adversaries would not be able to rely on any past agreements or global understandings. Alliances and treaties will be abrogated unless Trump finds them beneficial. There will no longer be a sense of America’s largesse and values driving U.S. policy.

For anyone who assumes that Israel—despite all the nice rhetoric and Sheldon Adelson’s money—would be exempt from this formula is grossly mistaken. Similarly American Jews should not assume that their concerns and needs for protection from discrimination will be protected by a Jewish first daughter are also likely to be mistaken. Trump’s America First notion means exactly what it did to Charles A. Lindbergh and the AFC in 1940.

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