Commentary: Back in the day we did not diminish America in world’s eyes

Richard Hoover

I regret that our president – if true – described countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean as “s—holes.” (In Foreign Service days, we did our best to keep bilateral relations on an even keel) Several who were there at the DACA meeting – Senators Cotton and Perdue among them – said they didn’t hear it. The president himself admitted to using tough language, but denied this specific accusation.

Whatever actually happened, worse failures mark this episode,  ones symptomatic of national weakness.  For starters, the president’s selected company that day included tattlers, if not liars, who scampered off  to the press without a care about diminishing America in world eyes, about guarding her and promoting her interests.

I mean, back in the day when handling congressional delegations or attending to cabinet level visits, none of my State colleagues would have dreamed of broadcasting indiscretions they had witnessed. We had America’s back and did everything possible to prevent the kind of international and domestic meltdown now taking place. Sen. Durbin appears responsible for publicly confirming, if not leaking, the president’s alleged misstep. And Sen. Shumer called him “honorable!” If Durbin is guilty of blabbing, no  country can afford leaders like these.

The charge by Sen. Feinstein, Congresswoman Pelosi and others that the president’s alleged usage was “racist” is another wrong  and raises serious questions about the clear-headedness of their leadership: should countries be spared fair judgement, if not deserved condemnation, because their populations are predominantly non-white? And should the present national immigration system continue to let ethnicity and race influence who and how many may enter the United States?  Instead, as the president seems to be arguing, shouldn’t immigration to the U.S.  be based on an individual applicant’s merits, on the benefits he or she can bring with them? Whatever happened to Dr. King’s dictum that we judge by the quality of one’s character, not by the color of one’s skin?

Nor can I agree that Trump’s statement, if he made it, was untrue. Rather, national hellholes do exist. I have seen such places.  The State Department, in effect, even identifies them regularly as a heads-up service for American travelers going abroad.

Another national weakness: too many Americans place ethnicity ahead of national interests, whether that ethnicity is theirs or they are drawn to it only politically or emotionally.  I remember asking State inspectors why they had overlooked the embassy’s failure to report on corruption, given that our host country was one of the most corrupt on the planet.

Mornings and evenings, I added,  highway shoulders were lined with tattered walking thousands, whether off to work in the capital or returning thence to their corrugated-roofed slums just beyond my own compound. These people had no “safety nets,” no medical insurance or pensions, and limited educational opportunities. And all because public monies were siphoned off by the most corrupt elite on earth, taken also by the head of state, a former school teacher who had just been listed as one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, standing several rankings below Queen Elizabeth! Such corruption, I summarized, produced human rights violations and, therefore, needed reporting.

My superior, whom I had long suspected of a severe case of “clientitis” – too strong an attachment to the country to which she was accredited – wouldn’t hear of of such criticism. Fortunately, the inspectors bought my linkage between corruption and human rights and tasked the political section to  report accordingly. Question: was my critical analysis of a black African government racist?  I suspect that Pelosi, Feinstein, John Lewis, Maxine Waters and company would have thought so. Today, such biased leaders are trying to bring down a president whose common sense approach to immigration is designed to put America first.

Heaven help us!

Richard Hoover, a retired Foreign Service officer, resides in southern Warren County.