Trump Versus Trump – Hailing Nationalism While Undermining Democracy

photo montage of images of Donald Trump

 

by Richard Cameron


 

I happened to be the recipient of a post on Facebook from a publisher I formerly contributed articles to. It was sort of out of the blue after a considerable time of non-communication and was also puzzling as to its content. Of all things this person might tag me on or post to my wall, it was a link to the full video of Donald Trump’s recent speech before the United Nations!

The title of the link was, “The Speech They’re Trying To Hide: President Trump’s Stellar U.N. Speech” – and the source of this assertion was a far Right website, “American Thinker” that consistently advances white nationalism, anti-gay and anti-feminism perspectives along with what some describe as ‘Trumpologetics’. People who serially defend Donald Trump’s conduct as president, are in reality, the antithesis of thinkers, but that’s another article.

I was a bit incredulous at the post, mainly because the individual who forwarded it to me, was in my recollection,  considerably more objective and sensible in my previous experience with her. Of course, that was prior to the arrival of Trump as a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2015.  Adding to my bewilderment was the fact that Trump’s droning demagoguery at the U.N. displayed patterns and movements that strongly reminded colleagues of mine of an abuser of amphetamines coming down off a prolonged high.

Side effects of this class of drug include mood swings, panic attacks, depression and damage to brain cells, not to mention, a preoccupation with “Witch Hunts” and other types of persecution complexes. The speech was as advertised. Trump was slow, sluggish, halting and his pronunciation of simple words and phrases was slurred.

While all of this was fairly telling, it was the content of the speech that was remarkably unconvincing at best and extremely deceitful at its worst.  How anyone other than an ardent and devout supplicant of Trump could see Trump’s bizarre presentation as sublime, was incomprehensible.     

Trump’s Nationalism Propagation

The address itself, was unmistakably a manifesto for nationalism. That was clear from Trump’s statement that:

“The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them or replace them. Looking around and all over this large, magnificent planet, the truth is plain to see: If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first. The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

 

Being that Trump does not have a core ideology other than whatever device is most expedient for his personal interests at any given moment, Trump does not, in fact, actually believe in nationalism. He does, however, shrewdly recognize its potent appeal to his political base and how it has resonated powerfully in history.

Trump then devolved into an extended harangue, bragging (of course) about personal assessments of broad accomplishments of his term in office. It was less a message to an international audience than an exercise in self-aggrandizement and indulgence.  An opportunity to make a campaign pitch is a terrible thing to waste.

This was followed by an indictment, true enough, of China’s market manipulating trade practices although it amounted to a rationalization of the trade conflicts that Trump is engaging in, as an underlying essential component of nationalism.

Trump also, could not resist taking a swipe at Iran, if for no other reason, than to once again boast to his voters that he unwound a nuclear agreement signed by his predecessor.  For Trump’s supporters, a major facet of his attraction to them, is his use of executive orders to reverse every signature initiative of Barack Obama – even the ones that objectively speaking, were successes. Destabilizing the Middle East is a small price to pay, in Trump’s estimation, for the benefit of obliterating Obama’s presidential legacy.    

Human Rights Hypocrisy

Trump spent considerable time grousing about migrants and excoriating those who advocate humane treatment of them. In Trump’s view, “open border activists” (which exist only as a fringe faction among immigration reformers), are “undermining human rights and human dignity.” This is a remarkable accusation considering his appalling treatment of asylum seekers on the U.S. border with Mexico.

But the writers of the script that Trump was assigned to recite from the Teleprompter, were also seeking to advance the idea that Trump is concerned with issues relating to human rights and protection and advancement of religious freedom. Here, is the portion of Trump’s remarks that deal with that proposition:

Yesterday, I was also pleased to host leaders for a discussion about an ironclad American commitment: protecting religious leaders and also protecting religious freedom. This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger or even completely outlawed.

Americans will never (fire or tire?) in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all. Liberty is only preserved, sovereignty is only secured, democracy is only sustained, greatness is only realized, by the will and devotion of patriots. In their spirit is found the strength to resist oppression, the inspiration to forge legacy, the goodwill to seek friendship, and the bravery to reach for peace. Love of our nations makes the world better for all nations.

The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents. Our nation’s Founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few.

So to all the leaders here today, join us in the most fulfilling mission a person could have, the most profound contribution anyone can make: Lift up your nations. Cherish your culture. Honor your histories. Treasure your citizens. Make your countries strong, and prosperous, and righteous. Honor the dignity of your people, and nothing will be outside of your reach.

Despite the fact that the address was fashioned along the lines of a sermon intended to lift up America, and more specifically, Trump’s government as a paragon of luminous aspirations and achievements, some of the content was worthy of merit.

The fly in the ointment, however, is that they have the unintended effect of highlighting the contradictions in Trump’s actual conduct in office and the yawning gap between what this speech professes and what Trump actually believes in  – which as we mentioned, is essentially nothing but himself.           

Trump’s Rhetoric And Actions Don’t Synchronize

He assails tyranny and calls for the leadership of nations around the globe to “treasure your citizens”, but he has assembled a sordid record of aiding and comforting the very tyrants he claims to deplore. He reminds us that “Our nation’s Founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others”, but he serially emulates the values of demagogues and dictators.

Before Trump tried to make political hay about Russia’s militarized annexation of Crimea in 2014 under Obama’s tenure, Trump, according to Andrew Weiss, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “repeatedly talked about how Crimea would have been happier being part of Russia and how basically Ukraine was secondary to his all-important goal of resetting relations with the Kremlin.”

In contrast to Trump’s annotated comments, Trump has provided political cover for regimes that murder dissidents, imprison persons convicted of sanctioned speech and has blinked at the mass incarceration of those pursuing their individual aspirations of religious freedom.

One year ago, journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s life was brutally snuffed out in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey by an assassination detail ordered by Crown Prince bin-Salman.

Trump’s response, instead of condemnation and censure, was at first to dismiss the findings of the C.I.A., that the prince was the lead actor in the murder and then subsequently to emphasize the value of Saudi Arabia as a country from which the United States can continue to profit by the enterprise of selling that government weapons systems. The very weapons and arms, it might be noted, that the Saudi military have employed to kill thousands of civilians in neighboring Yemen, via the bombing (specifically at the behest of Mohammed bin-Salman) of schools, hospitals, markets, places of worship and family celebrations. Congress voted to cease all activities in support of Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war, but to null effect as Trump immediately vetoed it.

It has been only a little over a week since Trump delivered his scathing remarks about China in the U.N., so one might expect him to, if not merely refrain from commenting about the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, at least not celebrate it. But celebrate it, he did.

Trump tweet congratulating Chinese President Xi Jinpiang on the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China

As rubber stamping sycophantic as the GOP is to just about any outrageous comment Trump is likely to say or tweet; there actually were some among them that took exception to Trump’s laudatory tweet. Utah Senator Mitt Romney was one of them, telling reporters that “China continues a relentless campaign of repression, censorship and disregard for global trade rules. As the regime seeks to further expand its economic and military might, an authoritarian China is perhaps the single greatest threat to freedom around the world.”

Fellow GOP Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) remarked that the 70th anniversary of communist rule was “a day to remind ourselves of the horrors inflicted on the Chinese people over this time.”

It is particularly ironic that Trump would tip his hat to the Chinese government, when Trump in 2017 declared Nov. 7 as a “National Day for the Victims of Communism”.

Key to understanding the contradictions here, are comments Trump has made earlier in his presidency about the Chinese government’s traditional manner of handling internal dissent. That was true with his past admiring comments about China’s premier Xi Jinping and China’s historical record of destroying political dissidents – most notably, the event many of us witnessed on live television; the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Trump described the brutal assault on students in 1989 of which this year marked the 30th year since that shameful event – as a legitimate response to a “riot”: “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.”

As far as Trump’s championing of religious liberties are concerned, they do not extend to the reported approximately 1 million ethnic Uighurs that China is warehousing in so called “re-education” camps in places such as the Western region of Xinjiang

22 countries jointly signed a letter of protest at the U.N. meeting Trump attended, condemning China for human rights abuses, including against Muslims within its borders. The United States was noticeably not among them. Human Rights Watch calls China’s activities, “a systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide”.

But China also has for decades targeted non-violent followers of the Falun Gong cultural movement and Christians of various denominations for removal to torture and death in its system of gulags that Kim Jong-un has so successfully modeled his own after.

(Editor’s Note:  In a late breaking development, it is being reported that Donald Trump, in a June call with Chinese president, Xi Jinping, told the Chinese leader that he would refrain from commenting on the Chinese role in the crackdown of their puppet government in Hong Kong against citizens while trade negotiations continue.)

And speaking of North Korea, Trump has made laudatory comments about North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, in numerous venues. “I learned he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

Yes, Trump was actually referring to the same Kim Jong-un that has an extensive network of hellish prison camps in which hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, guilty of nothing more than suspected subversion, have been starved, tortured and murdered; continuing a tradition that has persisted through the reign of his father, Kim Jong-il and grandfather, Kim il-sung.

From Russia With Love

 

And then, we come to Russia – a partner of Trump’s in his 2016 election and Vladimir Putin, who Trump has made an ally against the warnings and advice of our intelligence community and that of our allies. Steve Denning, writing in Forbes, sums up Trump’s bromance with Putin:

“Both as a candidate and then as president, Trump has refused to say anything negative about Putin and has repeatedly found ways to deflect or deny criticism of Russia’s alleged misdeeds, including the murdering of opponents; sending political prisoners to Siberia; suppressing minority rights; crushing opposition; annexing foreign territory; supporting Syria’s murderous regime, shooting down civilian airliners and sabotage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

To add to Mr. Denning’s list, is one other specialty that distinguishes Vladimir Putin – the directed killings of troublesome investigative journalists and whistleblowers. National Compass, has chronicled examples of both aspects of Putin’s rule of intimidation and terror.

We outlined the circumstances behind the death of Sergei Magnitsky, which spurred the response in the United States Congress of the legislation known as the “Magnitsky Act”.

In another report, we documented the modus operandi of Putin’s operatives staging the killings of scores of journalists who dare to disseminate facts about the corruption that is rampant among members of Putin’s circle of criminal associates, public officials on the take and oligarchs who amass wealth via the leveraging of influence with Putin and his ruling party.

For the entire run of Trump’s presidency, Trump has defended Russia’s subversion of our elections, claiming that reports of interference are nothing more than a “hoax”, in contradiction of the conclusions of America’s intelligence community.

This pattern lays waste to Trump’s championing of the notion of national sovereignty, since nothing can be more destabilizing to a democracy than coordinated efforts of a foreign power to disrupt the voting franchise of an adversary.

We are now learning that in a meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, that Trump gave Putin’s emissaries his blessing to continue to sabotage our elections, which Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his testimony to Congress, declared the Russian government according to our intelligence services, is continuing in real time.

There is an inherent contradiction between Trump’s claim that he desires the worst actors on the world stage to respect individual rights, but spitefully scorns the very cooperation of America’s traditional partners (Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany) of the post World War era that is imperative in collectively holding tyrants to account. In this regard, Mr. Denning describes Trump as “a human wrecking ball, who is undermining the very international institutions that Putin would like to disrupt.”

The Ukraine Subterfuge 

Trump and his defenders attempt to explain away the phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25th, as a direct pursuit on his part to stem corruption in that country, yet Trump states in his speech that national sovereignty is of the utmost value. 

However, Trump displays no intentions of respecting the sovereignty of other countries. Case in point, if Ukraine ought to pursue its own domestic policies, according to Trump’s promotion of the primacy of nationalism, Trump’s implicit requirement that President Zelenskyy leverage his administrative apparatus to uncover damaging information on Trump’s political opponent, Joe Biden, is a glaring inconsistency.

Trump’s accounting of the purpose of the call, begs the question of why Trump is focused solely on corruption in Ukraine, but not especially interested in corruption in Russia, Egypt, Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand or Pakistan, to name a few obvious examples.

One can reasonably conclude that Trump has the impression that he cannot obtain damaging opposition research about the Bidens in those particular nests of government fraud and malfeasance.

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