Three days ago at the UN General Assembly, US President Donald Trump delivered an archetypal Trumpian speech that left the audience staring at him in bewildered silence: parts of the world were "going to hell," the US may have to "totally destroy North Korea," and radical Islamic terror threatened to "tear up the entire world." On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (and his goddamn socks) took 20 minutes of a 30-minute speech to look inward and talk about climate change and how Canada has failed its Indigenous people. While maybe the contrast in tone — alarmist and threatening vs hopeful and conciliatory — wasn't at all surprising, the subjects they covered would make you think Trump and Trudeau, leaders of neighbouring countries with many of the same issues, lived on two different planets.
Here's a quick and dirty compare and contrast between our two media-friendly leaders.
Trudeau: Canada Is Fixing its Shit
While Trudeau's speech began in a much humbling place than Trump's—Canada's dark legacy with its Indigenous people—the prime minister wasted no time in boosting his own government's efforts to fix past past mistakes. (Even if those mistakes continue to pile up.) At the same time, true to his school teacher brand, he framed the whole thing as a learning opportunity for other countries. "The challenges we have faced—and continue to face—are not unique in the world," he told the audience, launching into a lengthy overview of Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous people and what his government was doing to correct past injustices. He also found ways to link them with the UN's own sustainable development goals—clean drinking water and proper sanitation, quality education, gender equality, and sustainable communities. He later told reporters he chose to focus on a domestic issue before world leaders because he wanted to show them how they could solve their own problems without telling them how to do so. An armchair political analyst might also say he would want to avoid being seen as critical of Trump in his own backyard, especially considering the tightrope walk that is renegotiating NAFTA.
Trump: I am doing a fantastic job, and America is doing better than ever
Staying on brand, Trump made sure to first remind everyone again that he had won the US election. "Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8," he told the audience, before going on to brag about everything he's achieved since then and taking credit for the stock market being at an all-time high, unemployment being at its lowest, companies moving back, and having an extremely strong military. Trump used the words "sovereignty" or "sovereign" 21 times. "In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather let it shine as an example for everyone to watch," he said, before going on to rail against the policies of North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, but leaving out any mention of human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia, Russia, or China.
Trudeau: Climate change is real, and "there is no country in the world" that is walking away from it
Seemingly taking a dig at Trump, who has said he intends to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trudeau tied his government's efforts at reconciliation to the issue of climate change, highlighting the dangers it poses to Indigenous communities across the country, and stressed the need for clean economies. "And for our part, Canada will continue to fight for the global plan that has a realistic chance of countering [climate change]," he said. "We have a responsibility to future generations, and we will uphold it."
Trump: Zero mentions of climate change
OK, moving on.
Trump: The world is full of "loser terrorists"/Don't fuck with the USA
Trump sounded the most, uh, scary when spending his time at the podium painting a horrifying picture of the world outside the US, warning of rogue regimes, terrorists, and international criminal networks all knocking on America's door. "Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet," he said.
"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Trump added, using Elton John's greatest song to insult North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," he continued. Since then, Pyongyang has compared his comments to "the sound of a barking dog."
Anyway, I think it's going to be long, long time before they sort that out. You know what they say: "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids."
Trudeau: Please Let Us on Your Cool Council
Trudeau is fighting like hell to get Canada a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021. It might be why he chose to look inward and highlight human rights abuses at home, instead of talking about North Korea, for example, or the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar—a show of leadership that would alienate absolutely zero people in the room. In a news conference later, he said Canada believed "deeply" in multilateral institutions and that the whole world would benefit from its voice on the Council because it protects the most vulnerable. In his speech, he talked about fighting for women and girls, defending marginalized people, and lifting the whole world out of poverty. "We can't build strong relationships if we refuse to have conversations," he said, ending on a note about working together. "We can't chart a more peaceful path if the starting point is suspicion and mistrust."
Trump: The UN is useless, as are most other international partnerships
Trump complained that the US is dumping too much money into the UN, which he said "bureaucracy and process" are prioritized over results, and called for reform. The money (the US does cover 22 percent of the UN's overall budget) would be worth it if the UN could "actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace," he said. He also called it a "massive source of embarrassment" that governments with "egregious human rights records" are on the UN Human Rights Council, and then in keeping with his "America First" theme, blamed "mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies" for job losses and the disappearance of the middle class.
By the numbers
Trudeau: 30 minutes
Trump: 41 minutes
Mentions of sovereignty
Number of countries insulted
References to Elton John's 1972 classic 'Rocket Man'
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