It’s no longer just Vladimir Putin…. President Trump’s affection for totalitarian leaders has grown beyond Russia’s president to include strongmen around the globe. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has had his opponents gunned down, but Trump praised him for doing “a fantastic job.” Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is a junta chief whose military jailed dissidents after taking power in a coup, yet Trump offered to meet with him at the White House. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has eroded basic freedoms, but after a recent political victory, he got a congratulatory call from Trump. Then there’s the case of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. He is accused of the extrajudicial killing of hundreds of drug users, and he maligned President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” at an international summit last year. Yet on Sunday, in what the White House characterized as a “very friendly conversation,” Trump invited Duterte to Washington for an official visit.
It was just one of 100 days worth of “WTF???” moments: Donald Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. That Duterte is an admitted murderer who’s verbally authorized Philippine citizens to take justice into their own hands and kill drug dealers is horrific on its own merits. The President of the world’s foremost democracy inviting him to Washington for a metaphorical pat on the back sends a chilling message. It should also cause any reasonable observer to fear for the future of our democracy. Donald Trump hasn’t exactly camouflaged his disdain for the trappings of democracy. His clear and evident admiration for dictators and strongmen betrays a desire to exercise that sort of authoritarianism here.
Perhaps he admires the freedom Duterte grants himself to act and speak his mind. Left to his own devices, there seems little doubt but that Trump would also refer to his successor as a “son of a whore”…or worse. Here’s the thing, though: Donald Trump’s invitation represents not only his tacit approval of Duterte and his methods, but America’s as well. It sends the message that America is behind Duterte’s extrajudicial vigilantism. As one of the Philippines’ most important allies, the United States can exert tremendous influence over the course and actions of the government there. Despite that, Donald Trump has offered an unequivocal gesture of support and approval.
Yes, executing your fellow citizens without due process is acceptable if you deem it necessary. It’s what authoritarians do: believe in their own moral superiority.
Guess what, y’all? America just got behind extrajudicial killing, vigilantism, and the erosion of the rule of law in the name of convenience and political expedience. Foreign policy is now a zero-sum game.
YAY, DEMOCRACY!!! At least as defined by a President more comfortable with authorianism than representative democracy.
In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders, one after another, in an effort to reset relations following an era of ostracism and public shaming by Obama and his predecessors….
Trump’s praise is not limited to potential U.S. allies. Even as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ratchets up his provocations, Trump called Kim “a smart cookie” in a CBS News interview over the weekend. On Monday, Trump told Bloomberg News he would be “honored” to personally meet with Kim “under the right circumstances.”
There’s no denying Trump’s affinity for despots is as much about his abject disdain for Barack Obama as it is about foreign policy. Trump is attempting to obliterate every remaining shred of Barack Obama’s legacy; he hates The Black Guy in the White House © JUST. THAT. MUCH.
This isn’t just business. It’s personal. America’s relationship will be conducted on HIS terms, with strength and forcefulness…not the weak, pusillanimous consensus-building of The Black Guy in the White House ©.
Beyond that, Trump appears to view advancing the cause of human rights as just another pawn on his realpolitik chess board. Taking a situational, selective view of human rights issues, he’s reluctant to expend political capital (or energy and effort) on an issue he sees little benefit in pursuing.
America is no longer in the business of using it’s moral standing to promote human rights around the world. It’s a new day, and this President values strength, decisiveness, and action over human rights and the rule of law. Perhaps it’s envy; he wishes he could do the same thing as despots like Duterte, Kim, Erdogan, and al-Sissi.
Democracy? Due process? The rule of law? Human rights? Meh…only losers and Liberals concern themselves with such weak sauce.
Nice work, America.