The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Trump Warned Us He Loved Dictatorships: So Why Act Surprised?

Trump has long praised dictatorships and repressive regimes. He has openly stated governments need to crack down on dissent and opposition and that using military force against their own people is good—a show of strength. Government power is what compels him and respect for rights is seen as weakness.

Trump was quite open with his praise for repressive regimes and said the problem with the Soviet Union was they weren’t repressive enough under Gorbachev. His exchange in an old Playboy interview is damning and betrays the lie that today’s Republican Party supports limited, constitutional government in any sense.

Trump was asked about his impression of the Soviet Union and said he was unimpressed and it was a disaster. “The signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

So, what are the signs of disaster? People demonstrating against the government and what is wrong with the Soviet government? It wasn’t firm enough. He specifically attacked Gorbachev for not cracking down on the demonstrations and opposition to the regime.

The interviewer then asked him, if by a “firm hand” did he mean one as exhibited by the Chinese government, which slaughtered students in Tiananmen Square when they protested in favor of greater freedom for the people.

Trump’s answer is revealing of his desire for dictatorial government. He first said that allowing the protests the problem and the government “almost blew it” by letting them happen. His exact words: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it.”

So, allowing the protests “almost blew it.” This is followed by “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.” So, allowing the protest “almost blew it.” The phrase, “then they were vicious” implies explicitly that the viciousness is what saved the government from blowing it completely. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

His next sentence also shows he supports the use of “strength” to suppress individual rights. He whines that American is not seen as “strong” in the sense he just spoke about. “Our country is right now perceived as weak… as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

When asked by he says Gorbachev not being firm enough, Trump said it was “because he has shown extraordinary weakness.” The example he mentioned specifically is that coal-miners were allowed to go on strike. He then complains about those who praised Gorbachev for allowing more freedom: “Gorbachev is getting credit for being a wonderful leader and we should continue giving him credit, because he’s destroying the Soviet Union. But his giving an inch is going to end up costing him and all his friends what they most cherish — their jobs.”

After praising the Chinese slaughter of pro-democracy students, Trump attacks American president as being weak and said, “Some of our Presidents have been incredible jerk-offs. We need to be tough.” He said China saved themselves by being tough with the students and America needs to do the same: “We need to be tough,” he said.

He said if he became president this version of “toughness” “would prevail. “I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.” We’ve seen his version of allies: dictators in Russia, North Korea, Philippines, and Brazil for instance.

We must remember that Trump previously praised the regime of Duterte in the Philippines for executing drug addicts and dealers in the streets, without any pretext of a trial. He told Duterte, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problems, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and you that.” So, police summarily executing people for drugs, with no trial, is a “great job.” But it fits with his praise for China for slaughtering the students in Tianamen.

Police in the Philippines are estimated to have executed btween 6,000 and 8,000 civilians in the “drug war” that Trump appreciates. In addition Duterte openly told reporters Trump praised him and said he was handling the issue “the right way.” Duterte said, “He was quite sensitive to our war on drugs and he wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing, as he so put it, ‘the right way,’”

Trump told a U.S. audience that we had to once again “get tough” on drugs and “that toughness includes the death penalty.” He again praised the Communist dictatorship in China for executing drug dealers as well.

Trump’s idea of strength is one that deprives individuals of their rights and smashes free markets and free trade. It is one where a strong leader uses viciousness and violence to smash dissent, even if they have to bring in the tanks and crush students to death.

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James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.