Pundits Predicted a Disaster in Saudi Arabia — Then Trump Gave the Speech No One Saw Coming

| MAY 21, 2017 | 5:00 PM

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Leading up to President Donald Trump's highly anticipated speech on radical Islam in Saudi Arabia, pundits and journalists not-so-subtly suggested it was destined to be an absolute disaster.

There was, of course, the nod to the start of World War III.

The Washington Post even published this report on many of the things Trump has said about Islam in the past the day before his big speech.

Washington Post/Screengrab

The Atlantic warned about the “perils” of Trump’s speech.

Then came Trump's speech — and the president proved why he is still the most unpredictable politician on the planet. Even some of Trump's supporters had to be surprised to see him use such a measured tone, given his past remarks on the topic.

Rather than the blistering anti-radical Islam speech many have come to expect from Trump, he focused on the importance of restoring prosperity in Muslim nations by driving out the terrorism that has kept much of the region in squalor for decades.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists,” Trump said. “Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your community. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.”

Trump also struck a dramatically different tone on the Islamic religion than he has in the past, calling Islam “one of the world's greatest faiths.” In March of 2016, Trump infamously told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.”

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

He told Middle Eastern nations they cannot rely on American power alone to completely eradicate extremism for them.

“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country, and frankly, for their families and for their children,” Trump added.

Trump said the issue should be met with great urgency, as Muslims themselves continue to suffer the deadliest toll of terrorism.

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The president avoided using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” during the speech, something that conservatives regularly criticized former President Barack Obama for doing. Many were quick to take note, but it should be noted that he used the phrase “Islamist extremism” instead.

Bottom line: Whether you love him or hate him, it likely wasn't the speech many people around the world were expecting.

Trump will certainly never win over all of his detractors, but he at least earned some modest praise from his rivals in the media. For example, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer said Trump “sounded like a president” in his highly anticipated Saudi Arabia speech.