Trump’s big night is upon us. How do you think his speech will go?
A man badly in need of a big moment, Donald Trump on Thursday stared down the most important speech of his presidential campaign, looking at his last chance to make a case to his many skeptics before closing out a convention marked by divided loyalties, unwanted distractions and hard-edged attacks.
The newly crowned Republican nominee had hoped for a triumphant turn at the podium, but he was instead plagued by fresh political and policy headaches: His most tenacious primary rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, still refused to endorse him — and happily took the convention stage anyway. Meanwhile, Trump’s own exposition of his foreign policy views were rattling allies at home and abroad.
The candidate said he just wanted people to come out of the Republican National Convention knowing this fact: “I’m very well-liked.” But it was clear he’ll need more than that if he wants to use his four days in the spotlight to do more harm than good.
Trump raised those stakes in an interview in which he said he would set new conditions before coming to the aid of NATO allies. The remarks, in an interview published Thursday with The New York Times, deviated from decades of U.S. foreign policy doctrine and seemed to suggest he would put new conditions on the 67-year-old alliance’s bedrock principle of collective defense.
As president, Trump said he would defend an ally against Russian aggression only after first ensuring that the allies have fulfilled their obligations to the U.S. “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” he said.
The comment put a finer point on the candidate’s previous criticism of NATO’s relevance, usefulness and increasing frustration that allies aren’t paying their fair share. It served up a fresh reminder of why Trump is such a hard nominee to swallow for many in the GOP establishment.
Intra-party divisions were sharply on display Wednesday night in a hall that echoed first with cheers for Trump’s fiercest opponent in the primaries, Texas’ Cruz, then thunderous boos from the pro-Trump masses when Cruz wrapped up his speech without endorsing the nominee.
Trump allies were furious. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Cruz “totally selfish.” Trump’s son Eric Trump, on CBS’ “This Morning,” labeled it “classless.”
The candidate himself tweeted: “No big deal!” Although he later said Cruz did not honor the pledge that Republican primary candidates had made to support the eventual nominee.
The gathering’s open secret was that Cruz came to audition for 2020 — an ambition that largely counts on Trump losing this year.
Beyond that the two men have a history of animosity. The businessman has called the senator “Lyin’ Ted” and the senator branded Trump a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.”