Trump’s version of America first is destroying our international reputation. As always, Trump’s tweets are a factor, but when Niki Haley voted no on a UN resolution to ban the death penalty for apostasy, adultery, blasphemy and same sex relations, she was exposed to be as incompetent as her boss. Worse, Haley told the world we aren’t the champions of human rights we used to be.
Needless to say there was a major backlash from a variety of people. As reported by Newsweek, Human Rights Campaign condemned Haley’s vote saying in a statement: “Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships.”
Our former Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice tweeted: “Shame on US! I was proud to lead U.S. efforts at UN to protect LGBTQ people, back in the day when America stood for human rights for all of us.”
Shame on US! I was proud to lead U.S. efforts at UN to protect LGBTQ people, back in the day when America stood for human rights for all 🇺🇸 https://t.co/3Y403bP7Wh
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) October 3, 2017
Worse than the vote itself, was the walk-back beginning with Haley’s attempt to “clarify” the vote via twitter, amid a substantial backlash.
Fact: There was NO vote by USUN that supported the death penalty for gay people. We have always fought for justice for the LGBT community.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) October 4, 2017
Haley tried to explain that the U.S. doesn’t really back the death penalty for gay people and her vote was really no different previous U.S. votes. From a policy perspective, she’s right about the U.S.’s votes on anti-death-penalty resolutions.
But this also makes a statement about the company we keep. The countries the U.S. joined in that vote are hardly models of human rights. As the Intercept pointed out:
“Twelve other countries joined the United States in voting against the resolution, including Egypt, which executes political dissidents, Ethiopia, which is considering the death penalty for same-sex activity, and Saudi Arabia, which, in 2015, beheaded more people than the Islamic State .”
The walk-back went from bad to worse when State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert added that the U.S. “unequivocally condemns” applying the death penalty to “homosexuality, adultery, and religious offenses.”
By voting no on the resolution, the fact is the United States did the very opposite of what Nauert said is our policy.
Granted, this was language that was included in a resolution that was designed to ban the death penalty over-all and the United States has never voted to condemn the death penalty. Still there were other better options than voting in opposition to the resolution. Haley could have abstained but that would have been “too establishment” for Mr. Trump.
Still, it is what the Obama Administration did in 2014, on a motion that condemned the death penalty, but didn’t highlight LGBT rights. Of course, that would mean doing something the same way as Obama did, but this way, like it or not, the vote amounted to a reversal of U.S. policy condemning application of the death penalty for “homosexuality, adultery and religious offenses.”
Speaking of optics, Haley cast votes for two failed amendments proposed by Russia. The crux of Russia’s failed amendments stated the death penalty is not necessarily a human rights violation and it is not a form of torture, but could lead to it “in some cases.” Not the smartest thing to do with multiple investigations of the Trump campaign and administration’s relationship with Russia.
Historically, the United States and Russia were arch enemies on human rights issues, as reflected in a Reuters article published roughly two weeks before the 2012 presidential election. “Russia accused the United States on Monday of double standards on human rights, criticizing its failure to close Guantanamo Bay prison and its use of the death penalty while the U.S. Congress considers a law which could punish Moscow for alleged abuses.”
Incidentally, then Republican candidate Mitt Romney described Russia as “Washington’s number one geopolitical foe, while Moscow has chafed under recent U.S. allegations that it harbors human rights abusers.”
Moreover, according to Reuters, Russia has Trump’s ear on North Korea. In other words, Russia has more influence over our foreign policy than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does. Again, not the smartest thing to do if you’re trying to play down suggestions that Russia compromised U.S. sovereignty in the 2016 presidential.
.The fact is, when it comes to international affairs, the Trump administration is as inept as it is on domestic policy. For all Trump’s criticism of President Obama as “leading from behind” Trump isn’t leading at all. Haley’s vote in one sense wasn’t a radical departure from US policy on the death penalty. But in this case, abstention would have shown more leadership. By voting the way she did, Haley told the world that we are not the champion of human rights we used to be.She also reminded Americans we have good reason to want answers about Trump’s relationship with Russia – especially when it results in departure from our policies.