Donald Trump has offered a tacit endorsement of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, describing the far-right leader as the “strongest” candidate in the first-round vote this Sunday.
The US president told the Associated Press that although he was not “explicitly endorsing” the leader of the Front National, she was the “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
“Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election,” he said.
–Ben Jacobs (Washington), The Guardian, April 21, 2017 (16:26 EDT (updated April 25, 2017 at 02:31 EDT).
Trump’s subsequent clever use of words to deny he supports Le Pen follows his typical pattern of saying things that send a clear message to his supporters, and then walking them back to confuse and avoid responsibility for what he says.
His tweet was a clear tweet, like on a dog whistle, which his supporters and right-wing racists and extremists in France could not fail to understand. Explicitly, he did say, Le Pen was the
strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.
The shame is that the Front National has a history, and appeals to candidates that include holocaust deniers (like the recently-departed interim head of the party) and others like Le Pen who deny France’s responsibility for collaborating with the Germans under the Vichy regime and German occupation during World War II.
For a world without memory, which many of Trump’s supporters seem to inhabit, these details of history are not important. They might agree with Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father and founder and long-time leader the Front National, who repeatedly has said that the holocaust was merely a “detail of history”.
That the President of the United States, which led the battle against fascism and the Vichy and Nazi regimes in Europe, might express support for the candidate of the extreme right-wing party in France that harbors holocaust-deniers, is one of the most shameful acts of a truly shameful government.
Only three and a half months in power, the Trump administration has shown not only a disdain for human rights abroad, but also a heartlessness toward its own population without parallel in American history.
From its support of what might be properly called “The American Health Care Coverage Reduction Act of 2017” to its support of murderous dictators and utter lack of commitment to human rights in its policies, the Trump administration is remarkable for its callousness toward ordinary people both in the U.S. and abroad.
On the health care bill, see
Greg Sargent, “Democrats must unmask Trump’s populist scam. Here’s a place to start,” Washington Post, May 9, 2017 (10:06 AM).
The most important thing, for those who are still thinking, and remembering the lessons of history, is to not let their sense of outrage be dulled by repeated and scandalous violations of the norms of civilization and simple decency.
The standards the Trump administration must be judged by are the same as all governments in all countries must be judged by: its support for and observance of international law including the defense of human rights, in all countries, at all times.
When those standards are violated, those who believe in international law, human rights, and the United Nations Charter must stand up and denounce the violations, and the silence of those who look the other way, with actions as well as words.
See Ted Piccone, “Tillerson says goodbye to human rights diplomacy,” Brookings Briefs, May 5, 2017.
To not support human rights, to not speak out about gross violations when that is inconvenient in dealing with authoritarian leaders and regimes, is similar to what Marine Le Pen has done, by not deouncing French participation in the deportation of Jews to concentration camps duing World War II.
To meet with authoritarian leaders like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Vladimir Putin of Russia, or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, or at a minimum to do so without insisting strongly on the observance of fundamental human rights and raising as a central issue their violation, is to join the collaborationists of World War II, and the appeasers of the present.
Duterte has boasted of personally murdering drug suspects. He is reported to have run death squads when he was mayor of a provincial city. He has urged the extrajudicial execution of thousands of drug suspects since taking office in the Philippines in June.
Putin lauched the Russian military invasions of the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine in 2014, and has supported and joined in the commission of war crimes in Syria.
Erdoğan is responsible for dismantling the rule of law in Turkey, with repression of a free press and the arrests of tens of thousands of individuals, and dismissals from their posts of tens of thousands of judges, army, police and other officials without any due process.
Western civilization, which has now spread throughout the world, is too broad and deep to not one day look back on the Trump administration and the Front National as gross departures from a story of progress over the last thousand years.
This story began with the Magna Carta in 1215, was expressed in the Enlightenment and the French and American revolutions in the 18th century, and culminated in the military defeat of fascism and the creation of the United Nations in 1945.
Those who glibly speak of the old “liberal international order” now being passé, without knowing anything about history or what generations throughout the world have struggled for and achieved, to extend liberty and prevent war, should be honest and simply say they want to abolish the United Nations Charter, and replace it with… with what?
The Trenchant Observer