Trump and the thugs

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

Au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers ex­er­cise a strange and pow­er­ful at­trac­tion for Pres­i­dent Trump. As his trip to Asia re­minds us, a man who loves to bully peo­ple turns to mush – fawn­ing smiles, ef­fu­sive rhetoric – in the com­pany of strong­men like Xi Jin­ping of China, Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philip­pines.

Per­haps he sees in them a re­flec­tion of the per­son he would like to be. Mr Trump’s ob­ses­sive in­vest­ment in per­sonal re­la­tions may work for a real es­tate deal­maker. But the de­gree to which he has cho­sen to curry favour with some of the world’s most un­savoury lead­ers, while lav­ish­ing far less at­ten­tion on Amer­ica’s demo­cratic al­lies, hurts Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity and, in the long run, may have dan­ger­ous reper­cus­sions.

In China, he con­grat­u­lated Mr Xi for se­cur­ing a se­cond term as ruler of an au­thor­i­tar­ian regime that Mr Trump had spent the 2016 cam­paign crit­i­cis­ing. He again ab­solved Mr Putin of in­ter­fer­ing in the United States elec­tion. As for Mr Duterte, Mr Trump ef­fused about their ‘‘great’’ re­la­tion­ship while say­ing noth­ing about the thou­sands of Filipinos who died in a cam­paign of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

Mr Trump chafes at shar­ing power with Congress and the courts and in­vokes the im­por­tance of hu­man rights only against gov­ern­ments he de­spises, like North Korea, Iran and Cuba.

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