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President Trump's U.N. Address Receives Widespread Praise From Conservatives

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The reviews of President Trump's speech yesterday in front of the U.N. General Assembly are still coming in. And among conservatives, he's receiving widespread praise. To talk about why, we're joined by Michael Warren. He's a senior staff writer at the conservative outlet The Weekly Standard. Welcome.

MICHAEL WARREN: Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So what did you like in the president's speech yesterday?

WARREN: Well, what I was struck by - maybe back up a little bit here. President Trump is a very unusual president and a very...

CHANG: Sure.

WARREN: ...Unusual Republican president. But this speech was in many ways a very usual Republican speech at the United Nations General Assembly. There were a lot of great lines in the speech that sort of sent the assembly room kind of a-titter (ph). But the one about Venezuela, for instance...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.

WARREN: That's sort of a Reaganesque line that I think a lot of conservatives heard and thought, maybe for the first time, that's something that sounds familiar to me...

CHANG: Right.

WARREN: ...Even if it angered people in the assembly.

CHANG: There was a lot of talk going into this speech - this expectation that it would be a very robustly America First kind of address. Did you feel that it was an America First address, or was it more nuanced?

WARREN: Well, it was more nuanced. And it's sort of the idea that the president has been laying out over this series of speeches. He gave one in Riyadh and gave one in Warsaw that kind of delineated this - I wouldn't call it entirely coherent worldview but something of a worldview which is patriotic nations working together that are responsive to their own values and coming together for some kind of goal. I think that certainly where the president is kind of landing in more of a, dare I might say, globalist direction from his America First rhetoric from the campaign.

CHANG: Globalist - but there were so many mentions of the word sovereignty and variations of the word sovereignty. Let me play you some tape right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

TRUMP: To protect their sovereignty - that embrace their sovereignty - strong sovereign nations - let every other sovereign nation - to uphold these two core sovereign duties - for strong, sovereign and independent nations.

CHANG: He invoked this idea of sovereignty at least 21 times. That was just a small sample there. What did you make of him mentioning that so deliberately so many times?

WARREN: Well, there's a couple interpretations of who that was meant for. In many ways, it's sort of a Republican base word because I think Republicans, rightly so, feel that the United Nations has over the years competed with the United States' own interests. So in many ways, you heard the president reference back to the beginning of the United Nations after World War II and sort of harkening back to its original purpose.

And I think that's what a lot of Republicans and conservatives like to hear - which is that this is not supposed to be a sort of global government or a global body but rather a group of sovereign - you also heard the term nation-states. And it is along those lines that the world's problems can be ironed out.

CHANG: But what if - you know, obviously the values of each country can differ. So isn't conflict between those values across the globe inevitable?

WARREN: Yes, and I think that's a problem here that I don't think the president got into too much discussion of. And it's ultimately I think a problem that any American president is going to have to deal with - is this sort of balance between national sovereignty and nation-states and the need to sort of solve big problems.

But what you heard here from the - from President Trump I think you would have heard from most other Republican presidents certainly now, which is, less interest in the court of Barack Obama view of things where America is sort of - conservatives' views - subjugated to sort of a world opinion and more of a view that America can be a leader among other sovereign nation-states in trying to hammer out differences through a body like the United Nations.

CHANG: Michael Warren is senior staff writer at The Weekly Standard. Thank you very much for joining us.

WARREN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF COLLEEN'S "GEOMETRIA DEL UNIVERSO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.