In his first month of presidency, Trump signed numerous executive orders, one of the most controversial being the “travel ban” on people entering the U.S. coming from seven of the highest Muslim-population countries. For this, Trump received a general public-opinion backlash and his orders had to face legal stay petitions. Quickly, i nfact, judges put holds on those orders pending a full court hearing.
Of course, Trump could not allow the federal judges to undermine his authority and his fingers were itching to tweet:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
President Trump seems to have forgotten that the privacy setting (or lack thereof) on his Twitter allows foreign leaders (not just American citizens) to see and comment on his behavior. One who was in the global audience was Chinese Supreme Court Justice, He Fan, who used his social media platform to criticize Trump’s social media antics. He Fan banged out that he was disappointed in Trump’s comments about the federal judge’s “stay” rulings on his travel ban, cleverly quipping saying that the U.S. President’s remarks came across as an “ enemy of the rule of law”.
The Chinese Justice’s twitter-type barrage on Wechat, a hugely popular social media platform in Asia, went further, arguing that Trump was a threat to Western Democracy. He Fan posted: “In a country claiming to be the most democratic and most based on rule-of-law, for a president to lead the charge in scolding judges… makes him no different from a bully without dignity!”
Unfortunately, Trump’s attack on democracy does not stop at criticizing judges. Just this past Friday, Trump banned several media outlets from the White House Press briefing room after tweeting that the media publishes “fake news” and is “the enemy of the people”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
Reporters from The New York Times, CNN, and The Los Angeles Times were excluded from entering the briefing room while “Trump-friendly” news outlets were warmly welcomed. Trump’s barring of media outlets and his persistent hammering that they report fake news is clearly a violation of the spirit of democracy.
The responses by He Fan and several U.S. media outlets show how vulnerable our Western democracy has become to credible global criticism. With the shortcomings of our democracy today now more evident than ever, Chinese officials are able to praise their authoritarian system with some degree of conviction and plausibility. After years of the U.S. trying to sell its version of democracy around the world, the reign of President Trump has raised the serious possibility in people’s minds that democracy without a great leader does not a great country make.