President Trump has become a threat to freedom not only in the United States but around the world, according to a story Wednesday in the Washington Post.
There have always been strongman leaders, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s “chief campaign guru … borrowed themes and phrases from European populists to rally the make-American-great-again faithful,” wrote Griff Witte, Carol Morello, Shibani Mahtani and Anthony Faiola of the Post under the headline, “Around the globe, Trump’s style is inspiring imitators and unleashing dark impulses.”
But “after two years of Trump using the world’s most powerful megaphone to cheer authoritarians, bully democratic allies and denigrate traditional American values, the impact on how others govern is becoming clear.”
It then quotes a career State Department official saying the “global decline in freedom” didn’t begin with Trump, but “he has been an accelerant.”
He’s praised Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, excused the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist, friend of Osama bin Laden and Muslim Brotherhood member, and directed a “steady stream of vitriol toward elected leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”
Despots and “would-be despots … have seen in Trump a model, as well as an alibi,” the Post wrote.
To Victor Orban, “Hungary’s increasingly autocratic leader,” Trump represents “’permission’ from ‘the highest position in the world,’” the Post wrote.
To Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, Trump is “a barrier-breaker” as well as “proof that incendiary comments about women or minorities and a history of trafficking in conspiracy theories don’t need to stand in the way of taking power.”
Even the Nigerian army has taken its cues from Trump, according to the Post, when it “opened fire on rock-throwing demonstrators last fall, killing as many as 40 people,” then “defended itself by citing Trump’s threats to do the same at the Mexican border.”
Trump has ordered the firing of non-deadly teargas across the Mexican border, and then only when mobs assembled to try to overrun border protection forces.
It also claimed the leader of Cambodia, Hun Sen, responded to criticism from the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh about a crackdown on the opposition and the media by saying, “Trump had his back – not the diplomats’.”
In Myanmar, when UN Security Council members visited to demand an explanation for why the country expelled 700,00 Rohingya Muslims, the country’s leader “used the phrase ‘fake news’ – the only words he spoke in English – no less than a dozen times, according to people present.”
Trump takes a tough line on Venezuela and Iran – both with abhorrent human rights records.
“But in many other relationships, human rights and democracy have been downgraded – or taken off the table entirely.”
It then quoted a former diplomat saying he quit because, under Trump, the notion that we always protect democracy is “’a harder product to sell’ because the president doesn’t appear to believe in it.”
It then quoted a professor from Johns Hopkins saying “We have for the first time in American history an administration that actually prefers authoritarians over Democrats. That provides cover for autocrats because they don’t have to pay any price for what they do. And it encourages others to go in that direction.”
In the Middle East, where the U.S. “has long allied itself with regimes characterized by troubling human rights records and scant tolerance for democratic expression,” things are getting worse.
The behavior of governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain “has deteriorated,” the Post reported, and the killing of its columnist and friend of bin Laden is only part of it.
Same in Latin America, where Honduras’ president was accused of supporting a UN vote in favor of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital so the U.S. would turn a blind eye when “used fraud to steal an election, triggering mass protests. Rather than condemn the move, the United States offered its congratulations.”