Abroad, President Trump’s reality collides with candidate Trump’s words

Story highlights

Trump delivered a major address to Arab leaders Sunday

He used softened rhetoric compared to his campaign

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia CNN  — 

Few might have expected that four months into his term President Donald Trump would find himself addressing a room of Muslim leaders after a night surrounded by dancing, drumming Saudi men.

But there he was Sunday, standing at the front of a vast reception hall, declaring Islam one of the world’s great religions while encouraging leaders to disavow terrorists. And there he was Saturday night, swaying to rhythmic lyrics in Arabic, only a year after deriding Islam as a religion based in hatred and vowing to bar all Muslims from entering the United States.

Ensconced within the presidential bubble on his first foreign trip, Trump is regularly finding the view from inside is often far different than from out. It’s a lesson most presidents learn sooner or later. For Trump, who ran as an outsider promising to explode political norms, the adjustment appears more abrupt.

In a major address Sunday to the leaders of 50 nations where Islam is the predominant faith, Trump veered closer than ever to the establishment views of American influence abroad, a sharp and jarring break for a man whose campaign was built upon uncensored language about America’s security and role in the world.

“I stand before you as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love,” Trump said. “Our vision is one of peace, security and prosperity in this region and all throughout the world. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.”

Trump radical islamic terrorism Muslim speech_00000000.jpg
Trump: Muslims must confront 'Islamic terror'
01:13 - Source: CNN

Worlds apart

The words from President Trump and candidate Trump, particularly on Islam, were vast worlds apart.

The President’s message Sunday was far closer in tone to Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush than to the rhetoric that electrified the Republican campaign trail and helped send Trump to the White House.

This, for example, is not something candidate Trump would have said: “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”

It may have been the most consequential speech of Trump’s young presidency, offering a pathway for his still-evolving foreign policy doctrine and setting a benchmark for which he will be judged in the global fight against terrorism.