Trump Found the Sweet Spot Where ‘America First’ and the Davos World Meet

Trump Found the Sweet Spot Where ‘America First’ and the Davos World Meet
President Donald Trump listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

To surprise, relief or disappointment in various quarters, U.S. President Donald Trump managed to comport himself mainly with dignity and appropriate remarks when he encountered the global elite in Davos last week. At least he did during his formal speech, which was teleprompter Trump, not Twitter Trump, as he promoted investment in the United States and touted America’s economic growth. In a brief question-and-answer sessions after his speech, Trump quickly went off script, complaining about “how fake the press can be.” Many in the audience booed.

But he still came away from Davos with generally high marks. Trump’s attendance at the World Economic Forum, the first by an American president since Bill Clinton in 2000, made clear that the rarified group of suave cosmopolitans who flock to the Swiss resort every year has a few things in common with the crude, nativist president, not all of them flattering.

Last week, Judah Grunstein set the stage for the strange encounter in Switzerland. Part of Trump’s message to his followers has been that globalization is the cause of their pain and must be rolled back, with tougher trade rules and more priority to keep money and jobs at home. He has viewed international relations as a competitive sport, seeking to assert his dominance in major bilateral relationships and eschewing multilateralism whenever possible.

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