By J.D. Gordon
Even as President Trump famously battles the U.S. media as purveyors of “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” it’s actually worse around the globe. While Americans are subjected to a daily onslaught of partisan and misleading reports about Trump and associates, foreign press dish out even more hostile coverage — poisoning perspectives around the globe.
It helps explain why earlier this month an estimated 100,000 jammed the streets of London to protest his visit to England, Trump Baby Blimp hovering above the city and all. It was the largest protest there in fifteen years, dating back to the Iraq War.
On that same day, July 13th, just hours after Trump met with Queen Elizabeth, I was the guest speaker at an Oxford Union Town Hall just a couple hour drive away. Many questions from the assembled 500 plus audience at the world’s oldest university seemed to come from a Trump fixation that the media overseas spoon feeds to its consumers every day.
One young student, a Somali-American from Minnesota, challenged the “Muslim Ban” as discriminatory since he claimed the seven countries impacted were all Muslim majority. That was easy to debunk. Two — North Korea and Venezuela — certainly are not. Four — Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia — are terrorism-infested war zones without adequate security screening. And one — Iran — is an official state sponsor of terror. It’s just common sense to enact travel restrictions from such places to keep Americans safe. Yet with recent headlines like “The Muslim Ban Ruling Legitimates Trump’s Bigotry” in The Guardian, one of Britain’s largest newspapers, it’s easy to see why the student could believe such things.
A student from Mexico bashed Trump, equating the short-lived U.S. border policy resulting in separation of adults from children as something out of Nazi Germany. An absurd comparison. Yet with headlines in Mexico’s El Economista and around the country since 2016, “Peña Nieto compara Trump con Hitler y Mussolini,” (Peña Nieto compares Trump with Hitler and Mussolini), we can’t simply blame the student.
A British student questioned Trump’s understanding of NATO, and whether he would defend member nations in places like the Baltics. Well, with BBC headlines like “Can NATO Survive US President Donald Trump?” just two days earlier, I don’t fault the student too much.
And the list went on. A young woman who fled her native Venezuela along with about four million others in the past two decades since Hugo Chavez took power, questioning how Trump could even dare ask advisors about invading the country. A Palestinian student from Gaza who questioned Jared Kushner’s security clearance and therefore ability to broker peace with Israel. Others who questioned the hardline approach to Iran’s nuclear program and alternatively criticized both the hardline and softball approaches to North Korea’s nuclear program.
Yet the foreign press scorching coverage of Trump, et al, misses the forest for trees. Like him or not, he finished No. 1 out of 22 major Republican and Democratic candidates for president. His policies represent views of Americans through the Democratic process — not just machinations of one former reality TV star.
The campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is a national movement. While embodied by Trump, it’s bigger than any one person. Trump simply captured the imagination and anti-establishment sentiment of American voters better than anyone else, then inspired them to get out and vote.
Like the U.K.’s BREXIT to depart the European Union after decades of gradual erosion of sovereignty, similar movements to advance national interests will be elected to lead Western democracies. That is unless mounting concerns over mass migration, demographic shifts and the rise of identify politics, alliance burden sharing and trade imbalances are better addressed.
As Trump rightly said during the campaign, America is $20 trillion in debt and can’t afford to be the world's policeman anymore. That's a traditional Democratic talking point, but once a Republican leader says it, Democrats reflexively stand in opposition. Lifelong Democratic doves on Russia and North Korea have suddenly become hawks simply to undermine Trump’s overtures for peace and ensure that he fails. "Never Trump Republicans" at least have a track record of hawkish ideology to back their policy positions. Yet too many in both camps poison the well via the media at America’s expense.
So rather than trying to destroy Trump and associates each and every day, both foreign and domestic media would better serve the public interest and themselves by focusing on the strategic implications of the Trump presidency. There’s a good reason Trump was elected. Many actually. And unless the underlying conditions which led to his victory are improved, more Trump-like figures will surely follow as leaders of Western democracies.
J.D. Gordon was a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 to 2009, and is a retired Navy commander. He has served as a full-time senior national security and foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain.