Donald Trump says America hasn’t been great in 116 years

The Donald speaks.
The Donald speaks.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Donald Trump gave a new, quite extensive interview to The New York Times on foreign policy (paywall) that was published today.

Over the course of two phone calls, totaling more than 100 minutes, reporters Maggie Haberman and David Sanger coax Trump toward a semi-coherent description of his foreign policy philosophy. The term they settle on is “America First.” From the transcript:

SANGER: What you are describing to us, I think is something of a third category, but tell me if I have this right, which is much more of a, if not isolationist, then at least something of “America First” kind of approach, a mistrust of many foreigners, both our adversaries and some of our allies, a sense that they’ve been freeloading off of us for many years.

TRUMP: Correct. O.K.? That’s fine.

SANGER: O.K.? Am I describing this correctly here?

TRUMP: I’ll tell you—you’re getting close. Not isolationist, I’m not isolationist, but I am “America First.” So I like the expression. I’m “America First.” We have been disrespected, mocked, and ripped off for many many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher. We were the big bully, but we were not smartly led. And we were the big bully who was—the big stupid bully and we were systematically ripped off by everybody.

Trump, as everyone knows, is campaigning on the promise to “Make America Great Again.” And so Haberman and Sanger posed the logical question: When, in Trump’s estimation, was America last great? A long time ago, it turns out. “One of the presidents that I really liked was Ronald Reagan but I never felt on trade we did great. O.K.?” Trump said. ”So it was actually, it would be long before that.”

SANGER: So was it Eisenhower, was it Truman, was it F.D.R.?

TRUMP: No if you really look at it, it was the turn of the [20th] century, that’s when we were a great, when we were really starting to go robust. But if you look back, it really was, there was a period of time when we were developing at the turn of the century which was a pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship etc, etc. And then I would say, yeah, prior to, I would say during the 1940s and the late ‘40s and ‘50s we started getting, we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do, yeah around that period.

Other highlights include Trump’s view on NATO (“it’s obsolete”), on Edward Snowden (“you have the two views on Snowden, obviously: you have, he’s wonderful, and you have he’s horrible. I’m in the horrible category”), and on whether the US should have spied on Angela Merkel (“I’m not sure that I would want to be talking about that”).

You can read the full transcript here. It’s worth it.