3:35 PM, Jul 27, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
On Monday, President Obama arrived on a presidential visit to Ethiopia. The trip to the east African state raised eyebrows, even among President Obama’s allies on the American left.
"The timing of President Obama's . . . travel to Ethiopia could not be worse, or more troubling,” said Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, a couple of weeks prior to the trip. President Obama’s visit “comes in the aftermath of an election that has been universally decried as a sham and a mere rubber stamp for the long-ruling governing party. If President Obama truly wanted to stand behind his strong human rights rhetoric, and behind the values of democracy and respect for human rights, then visiting Ethiopia is not the way to live up to those professed ideals,” he added. The Open Society Foundations and World Movement for Democracy later joined the RFK Center in releasing a letter raising questions about the president’s Ethiopia sojourn.
Making matters worse, while speaking at a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, President Obama – in the words of the New York Times – “lashed out” at several of the Republican candidates to succeed him. First, he bemoaned “a general pattern [in the election] we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”
The Times continues:
Mr. Obama went on to note Mr. Trump’s assertion that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was not a genuine war hero. Mr. Obama, who defeated Mr. McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, said it was offensive to “challenge the heroism of Mr. McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism.”
But the president also made it a broader indictment of the Republican Party, many of whose leaders denounced Mr. Trump’s remarks as well. “The Republican Party is shocked, and yet that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets,” Mr. Obama said. “And I recognize that when outrageous statements are made about me, a lot of the same people who were outraged when it’s made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet.”
Mr. Obama said candidates should not “play fast and loose” with comments like that. “The American people deserve better,” he said. “Certainly presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to somebody who’s serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.”
There is something more than a little unseemly about a U.S. president attacking, essentially, the democratic process, while visiting a repressive, undemocratic state. Obama’s slap against conservative talk radio, made in a country where the media are not free, was particularly repellent. What message does Obama's diatribite send to Ethiopia’s leaders – and the country’s people – about how the leader of the world’s leading democracy feels about our system of government? He sure doesn't make democracy sound all that great.
If President Obama truly felt compelled to go after the general messiness (and occasionally silliness and dishonesty) inherent to democratic elections, he should have at least waited until he was in a country that actually holds them.
11:29 AM, Jul 17, 2015 • By ELLEN BORK
Even in the context of China’s steadily deteriorating human rights situation, the developments of the last few weeks have been remarkable.
9:06 AM, Jun 3, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
In at least one respect, visiting China is a little bit like traveling back in time to America in, say, 1957. (Or so I gather.) That is, people routinely smoke cigarettes in shopping malls, elevators, lines, apartment building hallways, schools, and yes, even hospitals. (Oh, and of course bars and restaurants.) Thus, the news that Beijing has just imposed a strict smoking ban in indoor public spaces in the city is a little bit surprising.
8:05 PM, Mar 18, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a comment unprompted by any question from the media, White House press secretary lashed into some of the rhetoric Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used in his reelection campaign. The White House even suggested it had hurt Israel's democracy and America's relationship with its greatest ally in the Middle East.
11:02 AM, Feb 21, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Everyone knows that the coming Israel election, to be held March 17, is a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Quite a bit, actually.9:03 AM, Feb 18, 2015 • By JAY COST
Michael Brendan Doughtery had an interesting piece at The Week, in which he calls Andrew Jackson “
7:06 AM, Feb 12, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible Republican presidential candidate, is using a crowdsourcing platform to try to reach dissidents and human rights activists in autocratic regimes. In particular, Rubio is trying to help those oppressed by the governments of Iran and Cuba.
"I'm a member of the U.S. Congress looking for Iran and Cuba human rights cases to highlight," the headline for Rubio's post on the platform Movements.org reads.
Xi lowers the boom on Hong Kong.Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing safely over and regional leaders departed, China’s new strongman Xi Jinping decided to lower the boom on Hong Kong. Police there began clearing the barricades last week from the city’s main thoroughfare with the students in apparent retreat. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, widely perceived as Beijing’s puppet, was quoted by Reuters as promising “resolute action” and warning students not to return to occupation sites.
10:31 AM, Oct 28, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
On Sunday, the leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy protests abruptly scrapped a poll of protester sentiment they had announced just days earlier. The idea of the poll had been to get protesters’ reactions to two bones thrown to them by the Hong Kong government in televised talks held on October 21.
11:44 AM, Oct 20, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
Representatives of the student led democracy protests in Hong Kong are due to enter into a dialogue with the Hong Kong government on Tuesday. The prospects for success are not good. The two sides are far apart, with the government saying it will not even discuss the protesters’ chief demand – the democratic election of the chief execut
8:15 AM, Jul 2, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
In a 2007 article in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, “Let a Hundred Flowers Be Crushed,” the Chinese lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, told of being followed by security agents every year around the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 massacre of democracy protesters. Pu responded by ushering the agents to a conference room at his law firm and screening The Lives of Others, the 2006 Oscar winning film about an East German Stasi agent who protects the playwright he is spyin
10:11 AM, Jun 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In spite of a string of worrisome human rights and freedom of expression violations, the Obama administration is holding out hope that Egypt's government lead by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is still headed for democracy.