The Current

Donald Trump acting like a 'businessman president' on Middle East trip, says reporter

Washington Post reporter Callum Borchers says Trump's first foreign trip as head of state is guided by deal making, not human rights.
President Donald Trump and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017, during Trump's first foreign trip as leader of the United States. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

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"A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists, and drive out the extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this Earth."

That was U.S. President Donald Trump, addressing about 50 leaders of Muslim-majority countries in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, on his first foreign trip as head of state.

His rhetoric has changed, from the broad anti-Muslim attacks during his campaign, to making a distinction between the religion, and those who use it for extremism.

In doing so, Trump hopes to build up relations between himself, his country and his Saudi hosts.

"This is a businessman president," Washington Post media and politics reporter Callum Borchers tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"He's all about making deals… He wasn't criticizing their society and the way they operate. He was there to just say, what can we do to help each other."

President Trump's 1st trip abroad

6 years ago
Duration 2:24
Donald Trump's first foreign trip of his presidency is seen as a welcome distraction from the weeks of controversy at home. His nine-day, multi-stop tour began today in Saudi Arabia.

President Barack Obama, in his first trip to the Middle East in 2009, made a speech about building more democratic societies and rights for women.

Trump, on the other hand, did not bring up questions of human rights — despite earlier criticism of Hillary Clinton during the presidential run for her dealings with Saudi Arabia.

"[Trump] was extremely critical of Hillary Clinton for her interactions and her foundation's willingness to take money from countries like Saudi Arabia, given the way that they limit women's rights, for example, in that country," says Borchers.

But while attempting to rebuild relations with his Saudi Arabian hosts, Trump singled out Iran for criticism.

"He wants to give sort of a common villain," says Borchers. "Iran is an easy target."

Meanwhile, the investigation into the Trump campaign's dealings with Russia continues back in the United States — and the trip abroad may serve Trump well on that front.

"It has at the very least divided Americans' attention, which I think is the best case scenario for the President," says Borchers.

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post. 

This segment was produced by This Current's Idella Sturino