Donald Trump may have problems with the leaders of Germany, Australia, Canada, the UK, and … basically anywhere leaders are expected to follow the law and respect the rights of their citizens. But there is one special group of world leaders where Trump continues to feel right at home.
In a stark break from past practice by American presidents, who have pressed foreign leaders publicly and privately about allegations of human rights abuses, Mr. Trump instead pursued his own transactional style of diplomacy, dwelling mostly on areas of common ground during his meeting with Mr. Duterte.
That “transactional style” would be better known as sucking up to murderous thugs and looking admiringly on the way they kill off anyone who questions them.
As journalists shouted questions about whether Mr. Trump would press Mr. Duterte on human rights, the Philippine president quickly silenced them. …
“You are the spies,” he told the reporters, as Philippine security personnel jostled some of them roughly. The remarks elicited a hearty laugh from Mr. Trump before the journalists were led out of the room.
Roughing up the press and shutting off access is extra funny because Duerte has previously explained his hilarious way of dealing with those spies.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said. “Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong,” he added.
But of course, Donald Trump did bring up human rights … a little bit.
“The conversation focused on ISIS, illegal drugs and trade. Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
So, in the context of how Duerte has been encouraging a genuine witch hunt that has killed over 7,000 people without trial or evidence—incidentally knocking off political opponents and some of those pesky journalists in the process—Trump did bring up the idea that maybe some of those people have rights. Except he probably didn’t say that at all.
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque told CNN, however, that the topic “was not brought up,” adding that Duterte brought up the “drug menace” in the Philippines and that Trump “appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter but was merely nodding his head.”
And of course, Donald Trump was quick to point out how much better he was than previous presidents. Because he didn’t pester Duerte over things like killing his own citizens in bulk. Duerte definitely appreciated getting the green light from America.
On Sunday evening, he made a public show of his affection for Mr. Trump, grabbing a microphone during the gala dinner to sing the Philippine love ballad “Ikaw,” a serenade he said he had performed “upon the orders of the commander in chief of the United States.” A Philippine official later tweeted about the song, reportedly a favorite of Mr. Duterte’s, which includes the lyric, “You are the love I’ve been waiting for.”
A week spent with Putin and Duerte … Trump is coming home with so many good ideas from his friends.