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The global political elite was laughing at the “leader of the free world”.

In 2018, with global threats escalating to unprecedented levels, the leader of the US was looked upon to help chart the way forward. Instead, he started one of the most important speeches of the year by boasting about himself and his scandal-mired administration. That is why the world’s leaders and diplomats laughed.

The last time there was such laughter in the assembly was back in 2015 when Zimbabwe’s best-forgotten strongman, Robert Mugabe, was met with derision when he shouted: “We are not gays!”

In the incredibly fast-moving global news cycle we have now become used to last Tuesday’s events feeling like something that happened a decade ago. Yet the significance of US President Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly cannot be under-estimated. It will reverberate for years to come. It did not start well. Trump opened by boasting that, in less than two years, his administration “has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”. You could see the eyes of the many global leaders in the room (like most politicians, great fantasists themselves) rolling. Then the chuckling began. Then as Trump looked around and muttered “so true”, it got worse. The global political elite was laughing at the “leader of the free world”, the president of the US, for long the main custodian of the UN’s values and one of the key architects of its agenda. It was extraordinary. For decades the world has gathered at the UN’s general assemblies to lis...

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