Donald Trump’s false equivalence between Turkey and America

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

If not for Ted Cruz, the story of Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention would have been Mike Pence rising to the moment with his speech accepting the GOP nomination for vice president. But the story of Wednesday in the context of the election more broadly might, in spite of Cruz, be this from an interview Donald Trump gave the New York Times:

“Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, said Wednesday that if he were elected, he would not pressure Turkey or other authoritarian allies about conducting purges of their political adversaries or cracking down on civil liberties. The United States, he said, has to ‘fix our own mess’ before trying to alter the behavior of other nations. …

“During a 45-minute conversation, he explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. Mr. Trump re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States.”

The comments about NATO seem to have gotten more notice, and people are rightly criticizing Trump for sounding wishy-washy about our most important military alliance. But the comments about Turkey might be even worse. In the above excerpt from the Times’ story I purposely left out the second paragraph, which quotes Trump more fully about what he said regarding Turkey and the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The reason I did so is because you really need to see the question he was asked if you are to fully grasp the implications of what he said. From a transcript of the interview:

TIMES REPORTER DAVID SANGER: “Erdogan put nearly 50,000 people in jail or suspend them, suspended thousands of teachers, he imprisoned many in the military and the police, he dismissed a lot of the judiciary. Does this worry you? And would you rather deal with a strongman who’s also been a strong ally, or with somebody that’s got a greater appreciation of civil liberties than Mr. Erdogan has? Would you press him to make sure the rule of law applies?”

TRUMP: “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country — we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems. When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger. …

“I don’t know that we have a right to lecture. Just look about what’s happening with our country. How are we going to lecture when people are shooting our policemen in cold blood. How are we going to lecture when you see the riots and the horror going on in our own country. We have so many difficulties in our country right now that I don’t think we should be, and there may be a time when we can get much more aggressive on that subject, and it will be a wonderful thing to be more aggressive. We’re not in a position to be more aggressive. We have to fix our own mess.”

One need not be blind to the real problems in this country regarding law enforcement to reject completely this false equivalence. Turkey’s government has been locking up people left and right: Adjusting for population, 50,000 arrests or firings in Turkey — in just one week, remember — is like 213,000 in the United States. For years, Turkey has been devolving from the relatively open and Western-oriented government it has had for nearly a century. And Trump apparently believes we can’t try to pressure the Turkish government to do better because those actions are roughly equivalent to what’s going on in this country — where the police aren’t conducting mass incarcerations, but rather are protecting the people’s right to protest their actions, often at their own peril.

This false belief that America is just one despotism among others traditionally has been the fare of the American left; indeed, the notion that “America was never great” has explicitly been the message of some left-wing protesters in Cleveland this week. If you criticized Barack Obama for holding an “apology tour”, for saying Americans believe in American exceptionalism just as Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism, for not speaking up often or strongly enough in defense of our police officers — if you have been disturbed by any of those actions and words from Obama, how can you possibly defend what Trump said?

What Trump said might prove popular and win him a few more votes. Like many of the popular things Trump says, that doesn’t make it right.

Reader Comments 0

36 comments
bu22
bu22

You've been spending too much time at the AJC desperately like the leftists to find something to criticize Trump on (and come on, its NOT THAT hard).  Its like the Pay Pal guy said, we've got more important things to address.  And that is exactly what Trump said.  We need to focus on America first.

mackdenny
mackdenny

Why is it 'wishy washy' to re-evaluate NATO?  It was formed to oppose the Soviet Union, there is no CCCP anymore.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Putin must be ecstatic. First he gets the traitor to destroy US intelligence gathering making us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Then he marched into Syria unopposed because Congress refuses to give Obama a use of force agreement for Syria. Now  with help of Trump US is threatening to pull out of and destroy NATO. 


One has to wonder if Trump's  wife's father as a commie boss is celebrating too.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Not one mention of sanctions against Russia in his harangue. More stroking of his buddy Putin. Condemnation of  South Korea but no concern about his idol up North.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Obama considers Erdogan a friend and he supported him in the coup, so why are they asking someone other than Barry about this. Barry has 6 months more to deal with Erdogan and Turkey.


Now our dishonest liberal lapdog press wants to hang Trump for something they will not even dare ask Obama about?  


Yes, Trump's equivalency is stupid as heck, but folks aren't voting for him, because of his stance on Turkey.  Give him time, he hasn't even had a classified briefing yet, Obama has avoided many of his.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@RangeRover what a bunch of idiots.  They can't even burn a flag without setting themselves on fire, yet they protest about America being completely ignorant of how it would be in the rest of the world.

Anywhere else and they likely would have gotten their skulls opened.

And for BLM and supporters, look at how the police handled the crowd - outstanding.

I know flag burning is protected, but they get on the fighting side of me, as Meryl sang.  I want to see them stomped and that wouldn't be enough.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Hey, who was the regular here who used to talk about the "Real Americans" all the time?


For the record:


Only 20 Percent Of Voters Are ‘Real Americans‘

[P]oliticians, implicitly and often explicitly, usually have certain people in mind when they refer to “real Americans.” They often mean white people without college degrees — the so-called “white working class.” They usually mean practicing Christians. Their examples usually refer to people in the South or the Midwest — not East Coast elites or West Coast hippies.

If you’re one of these “real Americans,” you’re in the majority in almost every respect. Most Americans are white, most are Christian, most don’t have college degrees, and most live in the South or Midwest Census Bureau regions. And yet, only about 1 in 5 voters meets all of these descriptions.

This helps to explain what seems like a paradox. “Real Americans” overwhelmingly voted Republican in the 2012 election. The differences might be even more pronounced this year. And yet, President Obama won re-election four years ago. And Clinton leads Donald Trump in the polls, albeit narrowly.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Nick_Danger @Lil_Barry_Bailout @Visual_Cortex

I only defined it because some of the resident lefties asked me to--they obviously needed the help.  They thought if you had a birth certificate, you are a Real American; that just makes you a citizen.

And my definition is, of course, correct whether you like it or not.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Nick_Danger @Visual_Cortex

And as I've pointed out before, many illegal aliens are more American than some legal residents.  Illegals come here, work hard, often buy their own homes, and pay their own bills.  All while working jobs legal residents are too lazy and entitlement-minded to take.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I don't think those things DT said will win him any votes at all.

Guy's just shooting from the hip, and missing more often than he's hitting nowadays.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Some have said and it appears true that Turkey under Erdogan is moving toward an Islamist State.  That Erodgan is a part of or wants to be aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama embraced the Brotherhood guy that was first in control in Egypt after they ousted Mubarak.  Obama was to give him tanks and fighters, and who knows how much money.

He did not last long, another uprising by the people.

That answers why Obama did not urge on the military overthrow in Turkey, his affinity for all things Muslim.  And apparently radical Muslims.

That leads us to Trump.

Is there any chance, even a small one, that Trump would not publicly lecture Turkey on human rights while in the background tell Erdogan to straighten up or he will be treated like ISIS?

Many people overlook Trump is a negotiator.  He knows to win negotiations you have to work from a position of strength and be willing to compromise if necessary.

Lecturing someone their house is on fire while your barn is burning is not exactly a position of strength.

Obama should be all the example needed that lecturing alone won't get the job done. 

TicTacs
TicTacs

@JohnnyReb Trump is simply a mult-failed businessman wondering if Iraq attacked Turkey from the rear, would Greece help...not a negotiator unless you mean talking his way out of repaying debt he promised to pay back.

monty1
monty1

@Jefferson1776 @JohnnyReb  FAiled? HAve you seen his net worth? What planet are you living in? HAve you ever failed at anything? SUre you have. JUst not on the scale of Trump. HIs daughter is worth 50 mil. What are your kids worth? Silly statement.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@JohnnyReb 

JReb, you continually listen to what Trump says, dismiss it as "posturing", and attribute to him some position he has never taken. 

If Trump never says what he means, why do you support him?

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Nick_Danger @JohnnyReb he says what he means but it most often is in vague terms.

He has stated more than once he does not want to state exactly what he would do in a given situation.

Quite the opposite to Obama for example who announced two years or so in advance on when troops would be removed from Iraq.

We will see after Trump is elected if I and others are disappointed by him doing things that were not what we understood.

And before you attack that, if he does surprise us it will not be that different from politicians who have promised and never delivered.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@JohnnyReb The way he "negotiates" with those to whom he owes money?  Bankruptsy??

MarkVV
MarkVV

I was prepared to agree with Kyle until I reached the part of his article where he uses the same false equivalence he complains about.

It is no surprise, but it is still frightening for a presidential nominee, that Mr. Trump does not understand the role of the US in the world. There is no similarity between the problems in this county and the widespread attack on liberties in Turkey, and the US should always express her stand against something like that happening anywhere in the world.

But Kyle has cheapened that thought with a generalized attack on “the American left.” Closing eyes to problems in this country, attacking the President for recognizing and criticizing them, serves this country no better than Trump’s ignorant remarks. “Some left-wing protesters” do not represent the American left any more than KKK represents the Republican party.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@MarkVV 

a generalized attack on “the American left.”

I think Kyle's simply talking to his own and asking them to be at least somewhat self aware.

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

@MarkVV

"I was prepared to agree with Kyle"

And no one cares. 


"KKK represents the Republican party.'

That's because the KKK was created by the democrat party. 

TicTacs
TicTacs

He's a soph and will not pass the rising Jr test.