The Horrors of Hong Kong

By Susan Estrich

November 14, 2019 5 min read

"The world needs to see that the United States will stand up and say this is wrong; we stand with the people of Hong Kong."

That's not me talking. It's not Madeleine Albright or Samantha Power or Nancy Pelosi.

That's Jim Risch, Republican senator from Idaho and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He's the co-sponsor and, by his description, a "strong proponent" of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which provides for tighter scrutiny of the United States' special treatment of Hong Kong.

As for the demonstrators, they have two basic demands: democratic elections and an investigation of the police conduct during the protest.

Sen. Risch's committee passed a measure similar to the bill in September.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill unanimously in mid-October.

Beijing didn't like it and accused American lawmakers of having "sinister intentions."

The bill could have been considered by the full Senate anytime after the committee passed it. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Donald Trump of the Senate, has refused to schedule the vote. The bill would easily pass the Senate, which is why it hasn't been brought to the floor.

Under pressure from his Republican colleagues, McConnell has agreed to meet with Sen. Risch and Sen. Marco Rubio and discuss the possibility of scheduling the bill for a Senate vote. How many Republicans does it take for any of them to stand up to President Trump?

The violence flared this week after an unarmed protester was shot by police at close range. In another incident, a man was doused with gasoline and set on fire. The photographs from the universities are shocking. All that is missing are the tanks.

This is a bipartisan issue. It is fundamental to who we are as a nation. It is what people want Washington to do: work together, find common ground, stand up for democracy and freedom.

The protestors have been begging for any sign of support from us. Republicans and Democrats are on the same page.

Unfortunately, that's not convenient for Trump. Having started a trade war with China, notwithstanding opposition in his own party, Trump is now trying to scale back the war, save face, make a loss look like a win.

With China's help, he might come close to saving himself from himself.

Which is why the last thing he wants coming to his desk — not when we are negotiating with China — is a bill that will be seen as supporting the young people who are fighting for freedom.

What's striking about Trump's approach to foreign policy is that it is all about him. True, we are long past the days when partisanship stopped at the water's edge. But the extent to which he puts his own political interests above everything else is unprecedented. I think he truly fails to understand why people are upset with his efforts to make a deal with Ukraine. To him, standing for America means not supporting the president but supporting him. Why shouldn't he get part of the deal? Let the kids willing to die for democracy die. He's dealing with the political fallout from his trade war.

If stripped of his office, Donald Trump would be an outcast in many of the towers of power he would deign to try and enter. His power comes exclusively from his office — for which he has no respect — and from the people. He doesn't have the power to run a rogue foreign policy. He doesn't have the power to put his own personal interest before our country's.

Impeachment is not a pretty process, especially when there is no defense. If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If you've got nothing on your side, you just argue. And that is what Republicans are doing. It is one step from surrender.

What a terrible moment it is when an American president will not stand up for democracy. It may be an impeachable offense, but it is a betrayal of the fundamental values that do unite us as a nation.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: carloyuen at Pixabay

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