Grading President Trump's first UN speech

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): The exiting of the United States from such an agreement would carry a high cost. No one will trust America again.

TRUMP: The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering. The situation is completely unacceptable. And we cannot stand by and watch.

JORGE ARREAZA, VENEZUELAN FOREIGN MINISTER: He pretends to rule the world and he doesn't even rule his own government.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump making waves at the United Nations today with a big speech. Let's bring in our panel: From here at the White House, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and from our Washington bureau Tom Rogan, commentary writer for The Washington Examiner; and editor in chief of LifeZette, Laura Ingraham, who by the way has a new show here on Fox, debuts October 30. Congratulations -- Laura.


BAIER: Mara, I want to start with you. Your thoughts on this speech. Clearly it was bold and direct, and this is what the White House wanted to do.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: This is what the White House wanted. I thought the speech had something for everyone. For people who wanted some tough, nationalist, populist rhetoric, it was in there. But I thought that it was a step back from the U.N. bashing that Trump had done during the campaign where he famously said the U.N. was the enemy of freedom, an enemy of democracy.

I thought this speech was pretty mainstream for Donald Trump. He even said that the dues we pay, which of course are disproportionate, would be worth it if the United Nations lives up to its potential. He talked about the Marshall plan. That was about the most non-nationalist program you can think of. So he, I think, stayed within the mainstream of foreign policy. The two big takeaways of course were what sounded like laying the predicate to get out of the Iran nuclear deal.

BAIER: Laura, your take?

INGRAHAM: I think that people who last week were concerned that Donald Trump was straying from his conservative, populist, nationalist stance on issues would hear this speech today and think, wow, he invoked sovereignty and the nation-state so many times in this speech while he also continued to remind the world that a weakened America would not be helpful on the world stage.

And at the same time, on the U.N. question, he slammed the U.N. Human Rights Commission and how it had become a laughingstock over the years, not living up to the ideals of the U.N., but saying we want to work with everyone, especially our allies, but we want to work for a better world, a more peaceful world. But his responsibility first and foremost is to the American people. So he stood firm with the America first agenda while also I think showing a lot of strength on the international stage as well vis-a- vis North Korea and Iran.

BAIER: Tom, he didn't use the words of "axis of evil," but you had North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. I thought the part about Venezuela was interesting. We cover Venezuela a lot here on SPECIAL REPORT, but take a listen to this.


TRUMP: This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This return to the cold war, for a moment we didn't know if we were listening to President Reagan in 1982.


BAIER: And I think that would be a badge of honor here at the White House, Tom.


TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think what you see in president Trump on Venezuela is a quite striking representation that the president, as much as he does have these nationalist impulses, also has some kind of moral code when it comes to sensing human suffering abroad. And in Venezuela, there's a real sense of anger on the part of the president.

I think also you see potentially the beginning of the narrative we might see in 2020 if someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren is coming along articulating socialism. We saw obviously Senator Sanders' health care bill this week. If they articulating the notion of socialism as something positive, I think President Trump quite rightly wants to bind up his idea of look at Venezuela and children starving to death and come back and say that the country with the world's largest oil reserves is doing a good job. So it's a clever strategy.

BAIER: You mentioned, Mara, the Iran part. Let's take a listen to that.


TRUMP: We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles. And we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.


BAIER: And the prime minister of Israel said I couldn't agree with him more. The question is what that means policy-wise. By October 15, there has to be a decision.

LIASSON: October 15th is the next big deadline for the Trump administration on foreign policy and it's going to be a huge tell, and it will significant if he pulls out because we have European allies who are part of that agreement who don't want him to pull out. He said the deal, if it provides cover for an eventual world nuclear program. So far all of the agencies who were supposed to evaluate whether Iran is abiding say that it is.

Now it does all those horrible things which he mentioned. It --

BAIER: Iran does.

LIASSON: Iran does. But in terms of its responsibilities under that nuclear deal, so far has no one found them out of compliance.

BAIER: Laura, the thing I hear most just talking to people up on the Hill, reaction to this overall, is that U.N. speeches sometimes have that diplo- speak, that nuance. This was not that. This was kind of clear, direct.

INGRAHAM: I have to tell you I was on air this morning on radio. And I was taking the pulse of the listeners as we were going to it live. And person after person after person called in and said this is what we've been waiting to hear from a president at the United Nations. Bold, strong, unabashedly pro-American. We remember just a few years ago, Bret, when President Obama addressed the Trayvon Martin case at the United Nations obliquely, said we've had our own issues in the United States with racial issues. And I remember Dick Cheney at the time said going to the United Nations and even implicitly acknowledging or discussing America's problems is just not what we expect from a president.

And that's not what you heard from Donald Trump. He said we have been a force for good in the world. We will continue to be a force for good in the world. But my responsibility and duty is to the people of America. And at the same time, he hit the Soviet Union, as Tom said, and Cuba and the death struggle over communism and what it's done to people.

So I think Mara is right, there was a little bit for everybody in this speech. I think it could have been his best speech of the presidency thus far.

BAIER: And Tom, I've talked about this earlier in the show, or I should say shows. It's all kind of going together here 5:00 to 7:00. But the speech, the joint address, Saudi Arabia, Warsaw, the outline of Afghan policy, in there you see, and today an outline of a Trump doctrine.

ROGAN: You do. And I think that doctrine comes down to a pretty hardheaded realism. But it has a realism in the sense of articulating what kind of government -- identifying the flaws of government, for example Iran and Venezuela, but standing up and articulating specific challenges in terms of American interests, in terms of why you have to address particular issues.

I do think on the Iran issue, unless President Macron is willing to play good cop-bad cop role with the president, it's going to be tough to do that in a way that keeps the Europeans happy. But perhaps President Trump doesn't care about that. So we shall see.

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