Many people were too busy laughing at Donald Trump's speech to the United Nations overnight to truly register the substance of his words.

You can hardly blame them. The US president's amusingly inflated ego was on full, unrepentant display from pretty much the first sentence of his address.

"I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we've made. In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country," Trump said.

President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / AP

The other world leaders present responded by laughing at him.

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Trump later claimed he was being funny on purpose, but given he says something similarly hyperbolic without a hint of levity every time he's in the presence of an adoring crowd, that is probably nonsense.

And in any case, it distracted us all from the actual point of his speech, encapsulated in his use of one key word — "globalism".

The term "globalist" can be traced back to the 1940s, but has gradually seeped back into the public discourse over the last couple of years.

It was a favourite of the alt-right — Steve Bannon, for example, is a big fan — and is now apparently part of the president's vocabulary.

Trump presumably isn't aware of its sinister history.

President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters/ Photo / AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters/ Photo / AP

"Where the term originates from is a reference to Jewish people who are seen as having allegiances not to their countries of origin like the United States, but to some global conspiracy," the Anti-Defamation League explained a few months ago.

Globalist might not carry discriminatory connotations anymore, but it is still a pejorative term, and its use is a pretty strong indicator of someone's worldview.

Which brings me back to Trump's speech.

"America will always choose independence and co-operation over global governance, control and domination," he said.

"We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism. And we embrace the doctrine of patriotism."

In his 2016 inauguration speech, Trump famously declared his foreign policy would put "America first". He doubled down on that message in front of the General Assembly.

"The United States is the world's largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid. But few give anything to us," he said.

President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / AP

"We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart.

"Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends. And we expect other countries to pay their fair share."

The United Nations is full of people who believe in countries working together for the common good. Trump thinks each country is better off focusing on itself.

That's a perfectly reasonable and coherent worldview, but it marks a radical departure from the words of other American presidents, who generally embraced America's responsibility, as the world's richest and most powerful nation, to lift up its neighbours.

"We can choose to press forward with a better model of co-operation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and religion," Barack Obama said in his last speech to the UN in 2016.

Obama's Republican predecessor George W. Bush often emphasised the world's need to band together to fight terror and authoritarianism.

United States President Barack Obama addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in 2016. Photo / AP
United States President Barack Obama addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in 2016. Photo / AP

"Instead of treating all forms of government as equally tolerable, we must actively challenge the conditions of tyranny and despair that allow terror and extremism to thrive. By acting together to meet the fundamental challenge of our time, we can lead towards a world that is more secure, and more prosperous, and more hopeful," he said in 2008.

Now, you can mount strong arguments against both of those men.

Obama's collegial approach to foreign policy failed miserably when Syria descended into a horrifying civil war on his watch.

And we all know what Bush's enthusiasm for international intervention led to.

Is Trump's brand of cantankerous isolationism any better? In a few years, the answer might become clearer.