In Poland speech, Trump was vague on “our val­ues”

The Denver Post - - OPINION - Evan Vucci, AP

This ed­i­to­rial was writ­ten by The Wash­ing­ton Post o we have the con­fi­dence in our val­ues to de­fend them at any cost?” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump asked dur­ing his speech in War­saw last Thurs­day. That’s an im­por­tant ques­tion, and so is this: Which val­ues is he sum­mon­ing us to de­fend?

There were en­cour­ag­ing el­e­ments in his ad­dress sug­gest­ing that he was re­fer­ring to the uni­ver­sal val­ues that Amer­ica cel­e­brated ear­lier in the week, on the an­niver­sary of its dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence. Re­peat­edly, Trump in­voked the par­al­lel Pol­ish and Amer­i­can de­vo­tion to free­dom. He spoke of “Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment to your se­cu­rity and your place in a strong and demo­cratic Europe.” Un­like dur­ing his first trip to Europe as pres­i­dent, he em­braced NATO’s Ar­ti­cle 5, which binds the United States and its al­lies to treat an at­tack on one as an at­tack on all.

Trump warned against pow­ers that use “pro­pa­ganda, fi­nan­cial crimes and cy­ber­war­fare” against the U.S. and its al­lies — and, in case that wasn’t clear enough, ex­plic­itly warned Rus­sia “to cease its desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine and else­where and its sup­port for hos­tile regimes, in­clud­ing Syria and Iran.” He as­sured his au­di­ence, “We trea­sure the rule of law and pro­tect the right to free speech and free ex­pres­sion.”

Yet el­e­ments of his ad­dress left doubt as to whether Trump views such val­ues as truly uni­ver­sal. “The fun­da­men­tal ques­tion of our time is whether the West has the will to sur­vive,” he said. If by “the West” he means any­one em­brac­ing the val­ues of hu­man rights, free­dom and the dig­nity of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, he may be right. But those are hardly the prop­erty of the U.S. and Europe. They are trea­sured by the ail­ing Liu Xiaobo in China, by blog­gers fight­ing for free­dom in Uganda and by leg­is­la­tors fight­ing off the Maduro regime’s thugs in Venezuela. They be­long to peo­ple of all col­ors, all sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions and all — or no — reli­gion.

Per­haps what gives the most doubt is that he cel­e­brated “the right to free speech and free ex­pres­sion” with­out men­tion­ing that the gov­ern­ment wel­com­ing him has worked wor­ry­ingly to nar­row those free­doms, along with the in­de­pen­dence of its ju­di­ciary — and with­out men­tion­ing that, at home, Trump him­self has been far from a tri­bune of the free press.

“Above all,” he said, “we value the dig­nity of ev­ery hu­man life, pro­tect the rights of ev­ery per­son and share the hope of ev­ery soul to live in free­dom.” Many peo­ple will cheer those words — and will watch to see how his ad­min­is­tra­tion lives up to them in its in­ter­ac­tions with Saudi Ara­bia and China, Rus­sia and Egypt, and at home.

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