I’m getting tired of these things. Donald Trump — who will happily “stand up” to European leaders and call them on NATO funding and trade — made some time to praise Rodrigo Duterte last week. Any President should be embarrassed to talk to let alone praise (and give classified info) to Duterte:
Since Duterte took office in June, Philippine national police and vigilante death squads have embarked on a campaign to slaughter drug users as well as drug dealers. “Hitler massacred three million Jews [sic], now, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said in September. Last month, he told a group of jobless Filipinos that they should “kill all the drug addicts.” Police have killed over 7,000 people, devastated poor areas of Manila and other cities, and used the drug war as a pretext to murder government officials and community leaders.
Look, Presidents sometimes have to deal with scumbag leaders. But Duterte is next-level scumbag — a murderous bloodthirsty despot who is turning the Philippines into a nightmare. And it’s not like he’s the only dictator Trump likes kissing up to. Remember all that stuff about how Obama snuggled up scumbags and pissed on our allies? Trump is doing that and then some.
It raises another concern too. Duterte has turned the police in the Philippines into an extra-legal force for violence. Trump has appointed, as his Attorney General, a man who thinks the biggest problem with police shooting videos is that there’s video. He’s seeking to ramp up the War on Drugs, end consent decrees and pull back on civil rights investigations. The GOP is considering a bill that would make police unaccountable while making assaulting a police officer a federal crime. And he’s tapped batshit crazy and power-abusing Sheriff David Clarke for a possible DHS role.
Are we going to go the way of the Philippines? I don’t think so. There are a few too many checks on power to go there quite yet. But it’s clear that Trump’s admiration for Duterte is more than just lip service.