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.
‘Comparing yourself to terrorists?’ Internet cracks up at Trump saying dead 9-11 hijackers got more justice than him
President Donald Trump quoted Fox News host Mark Levin that left many scratching their heads. Levin, who has a show on Sunday evenings, claimed that the terrorists from Sept. 11 got more due process than the president.
The claim was a curious one because, as many on Twitter noted, it's not often that the president of the United States compares himself to a terrorist. Secondly, the 9-11 hijackers all died in the attack, as they were on the planes that crashed into the buildings and into a Pennsylvania field.
Trump is known to quote Levin frequently, though the citations often make the president look worse.
If people of color showed up to a Capitol protest heavily armed — Trump would call them terrorists: commentator
Legal analyst Areva Martin explained in a CNN panel discussion Sunday that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has historically been a day in which white supremacists rear their ugly heads with racist protests and other public displays of bigotry. Monday's expected rally of racist gun nuts expected at the Virginia capitol is no different.
Colorblind author Tim Wise said that it's a whole different level with pro-gun activists. He noted that there was a message from the NRA that former President Barack Obama was going to take everyone's guns away. Of course, that never happened, but it was part of the narrative to scare sensible gun owners. Now, President Donald Trump is employing the same idea, saying that the rally of racists in Virginia is being spun by the president as another Democratic power-grab. Wise called it a kind of "front-lash" instead of "backlash."
Farmers refuse to cheer for Trump as he lies that he’s fighting for them to keep their land
President Donald Trump appeared in Texas Sunday to speak to the Farm Bureau conference. Among the things he promised was that he was fighting for them to have their water rights and rights to control their own land usage.
As one viewer noted, there was noticeable silence when Trump mentioned land usage. It could be due to the fact that Trump is suing in court to take the land of farmers and ranches so he can build his border wall. For some, the land has been in their family since the founding of the state of Texas.