The Meaning of a Phone Call

by Jay Nordlinger

In the wake of a coup attempt last summer, Turkey’s Erdogan cracked down viciously. He rounded up tens of thousands of civil servants, teachers, judges, soldiers, and so on. He used the occasion of the coup to imprison anyone who might pose a challenge to his regime.

Donald Trump was asked to comment. And he said, “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.” Also, “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.”

Oddly enough, Trump has the “patriotic” and “nationalist” vote.

Now Erdogan has pulled a classic authoritarian move in Turkey — another one. (David Pryce-Jones describes it below.) Our president called to congratulate him. What if his predecessor had done that? What would we be saying? We should be saying the same thing now.

There are people — on left and right — who think that the United States should cool it on the freedom, democracy, and human-rights stuff. I understand this position. But even if you hold it, you don’t have to call Erdogan to congratulate him. You can say nothing.

“Make America Great Again,” said the hat. There seems to be no consensus on what American values are. I hope that coming years will see a vigorous, and honest, debate on this. Frankly, much of American history has been a debate over “What are American values?”

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