There was a lot of speculation about how President Trump's first speech at the U.N. would go, especially considering the negative way in which he's talked about the international organization. What he actually did start with, though, should come as no surprise: himself. Trump opened his U.N. speech by bragging about Trump World Tower, the skyscraper full of apartments that he developed in midtown Manhattan not far from the U.N. building.
"I actually saw great potential right across the street to be honest with you and it was only for the reason that the United Nations was here that that turned out to be such a successful project,” Trump said in his speech, even before he thanked U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley for introducing him and for her "steadfast advocacy for American interests on the world stage."
Forget "America First," then — in this case, Trump very literally put American interests behind a brag about himself and his prowess as a real estate developer. According to observers, though, this opening moment was the low point in what was actually not his most embarrassing performance on the world state. It did serve to highlight a common refrain from Trump's detractors, however — Trump is only ever working for himself.
Considering the other ways in which he's behaved himself in front of other world leaders, this is actually not a huge misstep. He opened his administration with a series of inflammatory phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico, two of America's most important allies. His appearance at the NATO summit was fraught with trouble, from his now-infamous push of the Montenegrin prime minister to his threatening speech about forcing other countries to pull their own financial weight in the military alliance. A seemingly benign press conversation with the Finnish president during his recent visit to the White House included a lie about Finland's nonexistent plans to buy American war planes that set the Finnish press aflame for a week. And most recently, his statement on Twitter that Scotland Yard essentially messed up in its handling of the recent explosion at London's Parsons Green Tube station earned a rebuke from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who otherwise seemed to have a close relationship with the president.
Can you blame the press, then, for worrying what would come when Trump actually took to his microphone at the U.N. building in New York? Trump has expressed a lot of cynicism towards the U.N. in the past, so it seemed altogether likely that some of that might come out.
Seen in this light, that choice of opening statement isn't good news, but it's also not world-ending. His address did include some criticism of the U.N., but it was related to the organizations overblown bureaucracy and expanding budget and didn't include any empty threats about the U.S. leaving any U.N. body, as Trump had hinted at in the past.
Another way to look at that choice of opening statement was as a plug for his business, which is rather fitting given that Saudi Arabia already leases a floor of Trump World Tower and uses part of that floor for its U.N. mission. The president still owns stakes in all of his businesses, much to the chagrin of the various ethics watchdog groups currently surveying the government and the collection of ethical cobwebs that the Trump family has introduced to the White House. Although Trump would surely brush it off as a harmless remark, perhaps someone would take issue with the U.S. president using the U.N. stage to give a 15-second plug of his own building. They've got a lot to do, though, so this is probably the least of their worries.