Giving Up the High Ground

America’s Retreat on Human Rights

Roughed up: police detaining a demonstrator during a protest in Ankara, February 2017. Umit Bektas / Reuters

No U.S. president has spoken about human rights the way Donald Trump has. During the campaign, he praised Saddam Hussein for his approach to counterterrorism in Iraq: “He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were a terrorist. It was over.” He promised to loosen the restrictions on interrogating terrorism suspects: “I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” He went out of his way to compliment Russian President Vladimir Putin’s abusive rule: “In terms of leadership, he is getting an A.” And in a television interview shortly after his inauguration, when asked why he respected Putin—“a killer,” in the interviewer’s words—Trump responded, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

As president, he has kept at it. Last April, he

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