“Trump was at his best in the Davos speech,” NBC reporter and Shattered author Jonathan Allen concluded at the end of his address to the World Economic Forum, the first by a sitting US president since 2000. It capped off a week in which Donald Trump took on a hostile international financial elite and made grudging converts out of them. Trump did not back off his focus on US interests above others, but insisted that “America first is not America alone.”
In fact, Trump wants the international community to invest in America’s prosperity and hailed the new business climate. “Now is the perfect time to bring your business,” Trump said, thanks to “the most extensive regulatory reduction ever conceived … Regulation is stealth taxation.” The US has reduced regulation on a 22:1 basis, Trump bragged; “America is the place to do business.” Leaders should put their own countries first, but that doesn’t mean disengagement. “When America grows,” Trump told the Davos forum, “so does the world.”
The NBC video below has a long leader on it, but skip ahead to the 20:00 mark to get directly to Trump’s remarks:
The speech itself was well written, well delivered, and apparently well received, although the crowd didn’t give much reaction to it. They may have been expecting a fire-breathing performance akin to one of Trump’s extemporaneous, stream-of-consciousness performances at his political rallies. Instead, it became clear that Trump took this seriously as a means to win respect from global players, allies and foes alike.
The Q&A (included in the clip above) didn’t go quite as smoothly. When asked about the media, Trump ripped them as “vicious,” which did get a crowd reaction:
While answering a personal question at Davos, President Trump comments on the press: "I always had really good press and it was not until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious — and how fake — the press can be." https://t.co/cwOfltN0vx pic.twitter.com/2RzwCHjbN6
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 26, 2018
Trump: "It wasn’t until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be.” The room boos.
— Niki Blasina (@NikiBlasina) January 26, 2018
That moment aside, this looks like an unexpected triumph for Trump. It capped off a surprisingly successful week, as the Washington Post reported before Trump took the stage today. Like many in the US, global business and political leaders still have reservations about Trump’s personality and manner, but they’re happy enough with the outcomes he delivers:
Donald Trump may have finally gained entry into the exclusive global club of the corporate elites he has long scorned — and which has scorned him. All it took was a $1.5 trillion tax cut and a much more hands-off approach toward regulating companies for business leaders to embrace him.
It is a big change in attitude from a year ago, when many in the business elite viewed President Trump’s inauguration and nationalistic brand of politics with high anxiety. Business leaders and their companies slammed the new administration’s ban on travel from six majority-Muslim countries — filling their social media accounts with criticism — and seven months later disbanded advisory councils to the president to protest his racially charged remarks about Charlottesville. …
While there was some wariness about Trump’s presidential style and apprehension about his stance on immigration and trade, many executives applauded an economic agenda built around corporate tax cuts and deregulation that they said was helping to bring investment and jobs to the United States.
Trump made a good case for doing business in America, even if that means on America’s terms. Some dismissed that as “egoism” and economic Darwinism, but for Americans who have felt cut out of the benefits of globalization, it will be music to their ears. And as long as Trump can keep delivering on high levels of growth, the international business community will care a lot more about the money than any of Donald Trump’s rough manners.