CNN commentator and former Obama administration adviser Van Jones worried Friday that President Trump’s inauguration speech means he will focus too much on America.
Jones, who served briefly as “green jobs czar” under former President Barack Obama, expressed a dim view of Trump’s definition of patriotism — that it means acting in the interests of America and not the world, writ large.
“We will be petty. We will be small. We will be focused on our own interests. And we’re abandoning now that inspirational city-on-the-hill position that [Ronald] Reagan talked about.”
“To the world, he actually now says the United States is now a radically ordinary country,” he said. “We will be petty. We will be small. We will be focused on our own interests. And we’re abandoning now that inspirational city-on-the-hill position that [Ronald] Reagan talked about. So this is a very patriotic speech. But it’s a patriotism unrecognizable, I think, to the world, to the Left, to the Right.”
Jones added that Trump’s vision leaves the world with a leadership vacuum.
“I don’t know where it leads us, but I think the world now is adrift,” he said. “I don’t know who leads the world now.”
To most Americans, the notion that the U.S. president would safeguard the interests of America and Americans over those of other countries is not remotely controversial. Jones’ assessment captures perfectly the globalist Establishment that Trump’s candidacy railed against.
Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan administration official and early Trump supporter, said the president’s speech was a repudiation not just of former President Barack Obama’s vision but also that of neoconservatives who dominated in the President George W. Bush administration.
“I think he’s saying the shining city on the hill has been devastated and needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “That’s a different thing altogether.”
David Axelrod, architect of Obama’s 2008 campaign, dismissed Trump’s America First philosophy as a “great slogan” but unrealistic in a complicated world. Jones said Trump signaled that the “the new patriotism is for America to be petty” and inward-looking.
“The thing that was shocking to me about the speech was the retreat from the role of America as an inspirational force for the world … There is a specialness to this country, and certainly over the past 50 years, you expect our leaders to acknowledge that. In fact, he was saying the opposite.”
Jones did, however, acknowledge that Trump held up patriotism as a cure for prejudice.
“That is an interesting approach,” he said. “We’ll see, but that’s not the normal position that you have about patriotism.”