His defenders praise the president’s “frankness,” which is fine. But frankness means telling the truth, and that means the truth is that the president frankly doesn’t care much about anything but the Saudis’ wallet and their praise for him. A statement condemning their behavior could have been frank, too. Ronald Reagan often modeled such frankness.

As Senator Rand Paul, a man largely in the tradition of the original America First, put it, “I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First.”

It’s fine to defend America’s economic interests, but it’s ugly to suggest that American interests begin and end with arms sales and military alliances.

America has an interest in standing up for more than a balance sheet. Progressive historian Charles Beard, an America Firster, argued that the U.S. government must “surrender forever the imbecilic belief that it was her duty to defend every dollar invested everywhere and every acquisitive merchant seeking his private interests everywhere.”