Absent from public statements in Donald Trump’s Asia trip are calls for other nations to respect human rights, because, says the Administration, what’s the point?
President Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia has him schmoozing with some of the world’s worst human rights abusers. But unlike President Obama, who made a point of using his trips to regions with dodgy rights records to assert America’s moral soft power in the world, Trump has no intention of embarrassing his hosts or other regional leaders by insisting anyone hew to a specific line on human rights.
“How much does it help to yell about these problems,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told the press on Thursday. “What the president is doing is being effective” [Sarah Wildman, “‘America First’ Means Human Rights Last During Trump’s Visit to Asia,” Vox, 2017.11.08].
Yet Donald Trump finds it effective to yell at our foreign trade partners in a hardline speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Vietnam. He even demonstrates his thin-skinnedness by trying to attack someone who issued some minor reaction during his Vietnam speech:
“We lowered or ended tariffs, reduced trade barriers and allowed foreign goods to flow freely into our country,” he said. “But while we lowered market barriers, other countries didn’t open their markets to us.”
That remark elicited a barely audible reaction from someone in the audience, which Trump picked up on: “Funny,” the president remarked to scattered clapping. “They must have been one of the beneficiaries.”
In the manner of his campaign-style rallies, Trump pointed to the source of the disturbance: “What country do you come from sir?” but got no response and moved on with his speech [Scott Neuman, “Trump Talks Tough on Trade at Summit in Vietnam,” NPR: The Two-Way, 2017.11.10].
Numerous instances of political and religious persecution across Southeast Asia, and Donald Trump remains silent. But chuckle at him when he’s reading his tough-guy teleprompter, and Donald Trump mouths off instantly. Such are the priorities of the man who is supposed to lead the free world.