When Donald Trump praised Russian despot Vladimir Putin, declaring that “He’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader,” and when Mike Pence reiterated that “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been,” they did not speak alone. The President-Elect and Vice President-Elect spoke as part of a column of Republican politicians who praise and support authoritarian tyrants around the globe.
This morning, for instance, Republican congressman Robert Aderholt took to Twitter to brag about his public support for the government of Kazakhstan. Lest we be accused of taking Rep. Aderholt’s speaking appearance at the 4th annual Kazakhstan United States Convention out of context, consider his speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, April 28, 2015:
“Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the importance of the relationship between Kazakhstan and the United States. I recently had the honor of meeting with Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov to discuss Kazakhstan and its contributions to the international community when the Prime Minister visited Washington to attend IMF and World Bank meetings.
“The Republic of Kazakhstan is an important partner to the United States in Central Asia in many ways and is key to our interests in that region and globally. Led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan is a reliable partner on the world stage in the areas of energy and regional security, economic development and trade and political and regional stability.”
Robert Aderholt did not mention in his remarks today or in his speech to Congress last year that, as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have documented, the government of Kazakhstan:
- Tightly restricts freedom of speech, forbidding criticism of the government or its leaders
- Classifies tolerant expressions regarding LGBT citizens as impermissible “propaganda”
- Violates freedom of the press, shutting down newspapers that report inconvenient truths
- Fines and occasionally jails citizens for practicing religion in a manner not approved by the government
- Censors the Internet
- Outlaws any public assembly not approved by the government
- Regularly jails protesters without charge
- Tortures its people with impunity
- Arrests workers when they organize for better pay and workplace safety
- Forbids any constitutional changes without the approval of its president
- Runs elections in which no significant challengers to ruling leaders are permitted to run
- Exhibits significant election-related irregularities
Robert Aderholt mentioned none of these violations of human rights in his laudatory speeches.
Aderholt is not alone in this regard. Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who Donald Trump is considering as a contender to be the next United States Secretary of State, delivered a speech before the U.S. Congress last Thursday in which he praised the government of Kazakhstan without reservation — and, like Robert Aderholt, made absolutely no mention of Kazakhstan’s record of human rights abuse.
In the Trump Era, Republican despot-coddling is becoming a matter of regular practice.