Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz… and lest we forget, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All have been the subject of compliments from President Donald J. Trump during his infant presidency. From their strength in terms of silencing — even through violence — critics to their facility to write billion-dollar checks to the U.S. government, the president has not been shy about lauding these strongmen for their “leadership” in their respective countries.
President Trump has not been as willing to discuss their dark histories — former and current — when it comes to alleged human rights abuses.
There, he drew a line of hypocrisy when it comes to what the U.S. will, and will not put up with when it comes to human rights by its partners.
“It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” Trump said.
A little more impatience about democracy isn’t such a bad thing.
But Trump joined a chorus of Cuban hardliners during his speech on Friday on stage at the Manuel Artime Theater who don’t bother drawing a distinction between our approach to Cuba’s Castro regime versus others of the same ilk.
Truthfully, Trump’s so-called “reversal” of Obama’s policies normalizing of relations with Cuba after 50-plus failed years of isolationism was little more than a “tweak.”
What remains: full diplomatic relations, including an embassy in Havana; reduced immigration favoritism for Cubans, otherwise known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy; restored commercial flights and cruise-ship visits; enhanced cash remittances and visitation by Cuban Americans; and even removal of Cuba from the list of state terrorism sponsors.
What changes: tightening restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba — technically illegal already — and instituting a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies significantly controlled by the Communist government’s military holding company.
The rest is mostly rhetoric. Questionable rhetoric that, while it sounds good on a campaign stump, won’t amount to much in terms of helping the Cuban people.
So why bother? Especially given how hypocritical it all sounds when compared to what he administration seems fit to put up with from other de facto dictatorships when it comes to human rights abuses.
Why didn’t we here the same compassion from the Trump administration for the Turkish people who are having their rights trampled on? Would the U.S. be wrong to demand the right to a fair trial for hundreds of alleged drug dealers shot down in the streets in the Philippines? Why didn’t we here the same for the thousands of Egyptians jailed and killed by el-Sisi? And was a $100 billion buy of U.S. military hardware enough to buy our silence on Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women?
Such selective ire makes the righteous indignation from Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Jose Diaz-Balart ring all the more hollow.
Human rights are human rights. You either care about them everywhere, or you don’t care about them at all.