Foreign policy by Donald Trump

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night news conference.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night news conference. AP

First, Donald Trump, the clear Republican front-runner, accused President Barack Obama of a “reckless, rudderless and aimless” foreign policy that has weakened America.

Then, he gave a rambling, vague and incoherent speech Wednesday full of platitudes and contradictions, and suggested he would undermine international alliances that have helped keep America safe since World War II.

Three days after he gave what was billed as a major foreign policy address, what Mr. Trump uttered is still troubling.

Voters looking for reassurances about Mr. Trump as commander in chief can’t feel that much more comfortable. Our longtime allies certainly won’t be reassured. In fact, both allies and enemies should be concerned.

Mr. Trump promised to be generous to America’s friends, then called for our partners in Europe and Asia to pay more to defend themselves.

He complained that America has spent trillions on national defense, but then called for a major military buildup.

He vowed that America would get out of the nation-building business, but also called for promoting Western values around the world.

It’s easy to see his appeal in some circles.

If Mr. Trump had a consistent theme, it was “America First” — a slogan with a troubled history. The isolationist America First Committee tried to keep the United States out of World War II.

There are unmistakable isolationist tendencies in Mr. Trump’s doctrine, along with nationalism and protectionism.

While he pledged to have a bipartisan foreign policy, his vision conflicts with a political consensus in support of alliances such as NATO.

Mr. Trump rightly said that it’s a dangerous world. But it will be made safer through American leadership, not by pulling back.

While some of Mr. Trump’s criticisms about President Obama’s actions in the Middle East and against the Islamic State have merit, he didn’t explain how he would stop terrorism.

He said his plans are secret. “We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” Mr. Trump said, promising a surprise attack and quick finish to the terrorist groups.

Wisely, he didn’t repeat earlier outlandish statements about killing innocent family members of terrorists, or bringing back waterboarding and even worse forms of torture.

Fresh off a five-primary sweep Tuesday that makes it more likely that he’ll be the Republican nominee, Mr. Trump turned down the volume and softened his tone. As his wins have piled up, Mr. Trump’s campaign has sought to make overtures to the Republican establishment and give Mr. Trump a presidential air.

But without the aid of a teleprompter, he shows his true self. In his victory speech, he gratuitously slammed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, claiming that if she were a man she wouldn’t get 5 percent of the vote and accusing her of “playing the woman’s card.”

It’s an insult to women that will only widen the gender gap facing Mr. Trump, who continues to insist he “cherishes” women and they love him.

Based on his campaign so far, that’s the real Mr. Trump — a bombastic candidate who appeals to our worst instincts, not the more reasonable one who promised a clear-eyed foreign policy that makes America strong.

This editorial first appeared in the Sacramento Bee.