Tensions continue to rise in Hong Kong as massive groups of pro-democracy protesters shut down an airport on Tuesday. The protesters have clashed with police while demonstrating against the Chinese government’s attempt to exert greater control over the quasi-independent region through an extradition law. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is saber-rattling over the protests and gathering military forces nearby in an apparent threat to extend greater authoritarian force.
It’s a fraught, complex and volatile situation demanding the world’s attention and, one might hope, the deft and strategic moral leadership of the United States government. Instead, of course, we have President Donald Trump.
Asked a few weeks ago if he supported the rights of protesters in Hong Kong, he gave a vague an unimpressive answer: “Well they are [protesting]. I don’t think China’s stopped them. China could stop them if they wanted. I’m not involved in it very much. I think President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly. They’ve been out there protesting for a long time. I’ve never seen protests like it where you have that many people, it looks like 2 million people. Those are big protests. But I hope that President Xi will do the right thing, but it has been going on for a long time there’s no question.”
He later called the protests “riots” — a contentious description with potential legal consequences in Hong Kong – and said, “Hong Kong is a part of China, they’ll have to deal with that themselves.”
On Tuesday, he tweeted:
As usual, China said they were going to be buying “big” from our great American Farmers. So far they have not done what they said. Maybe this will be different!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2019
Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2019
While it’s not clear why Trump would be to blame, precisely, for the crisis in Hong Kong, it’s undoubtedly true that his rhetoric and posture as president has served to empower autocrats abroad. He frequently praises and embraces autocratic regimes while denigrating democratic allies, and under his watch, concern for human rights abroad has fallen off the American agenda.
And amid the chaos, an old quote from a Playboy interview with Trump in 1990 reveals his true disposition toward Chinese autocracy:
What were your other impressions of the Soviet Union?
I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.
You mean firm hand as in China?
When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world—
He has consistently signaled to the world that he views violent and oppressive governance as the strongest form of leadership. Thankfully, so far, American institutions have greatly limited his ability to enact his preferred form of government here. But he has no interest in crafting a foreign policy that increases the chances that other countries will respect human rights.
Things are so bad for Republicans the GOP had to send money to Texas
In 2016, then-anti-Trump Republican Sen. Linsey Graham proclaimed, "If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it." It seems his prediction is coming closer to fruition.
Financial reporting reveals that the Republican Party was forced to send $1.3 million to ruby-red Texas as the election nears.
It was something spotted by ProPublica developer and ex-reporter Derek Willis Sunday.
"That's never happened before," he tweeted.
He noted that the Texas GOP raised $3.3 million in August, but nearly half of that came from their national parents.
What the London ‘Blitz’ reveals about how much pain and tragedy people can handle in 2020
It's hard to imagine how 2020 could possibly get worse. "If we lose Betty White," a friend said on a drive to the Supreme Court to lay flowers.
So many Americans have lost friends or family members to COVID-19. Thousands of Americans survived the virus only to desperately needed organ transplants and forever will struggle to breathe the way they once did. Others are still suffering without smell or taste even three months after having the virus. Millions of Americans are out of work. Debt is stacking up for those trying to survive in the COVID economy. A lack of health insurance can mean hospitalizations from the virus are putting people into bankruptcy.
Stop trying to convince people you’re right — it will never persuade anyone: expert
MSNBC host Joshua Johnson noted that this year has been full of strife, with Americans having a lot to stand up about. Whether the slaying of unarmed Black men and police brutality, or healthcare, and the coronavirus, Americans are lining up to protest.
Johnson asked if people try to start tough conversations, how do they keep it productive, and when it's time to give up. In her book, We Need to Talk, Celest Headlee explains tools that people can use to have productive conversations about tough issues that help move the needle.
"Keep in mind that a protest isn't a conversation, right?" she first began. "That's a different kind of communication. The first thing is that our goal in conversations is not always a productive one. In other words, oftentimes, we go into these conversations hoping to change somebody's mind or convince them that they are wrong. You're just never going to accomplish that. There's no evidence. We haven't been able to -- through years and years of research we haven't been able to find evidence that over a conversation somebody said, 'You're right, I was completely wrong.' You've convinced me. So, we have to stop trying to do that. We have to find a new purpose for those conversations."