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[Tulsathit Taptim] A tale of three loose-tongued politicians

By 김케빈도현

Published : Oct. 20, 2016 - 14:48

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One is American. Another is anti-America. The third has just sneaked in and out of America; he and America are strange bedfellows at the moment. But Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte and Thaksin Shinawatra have at least one thing in common: Their boasting and provocative comments know no bounds.

Trump‘s “race to the bottom,” as his opponents term it, is in full throttle, although as far as he is concerned there is no bottom in sight. His political incorrectness is testing everyone’s limits with each passing day, but what seems like lunacy may actually be his “all-in” strategy. In fact the “locker-room” remark that sent Republicans running in horror from his presidential campaign might actually help him come November.

The remark, made a decade before he became a presidential candidate, was caught on tape as he was about to appear on a TV programme. Somehow reporters got their hands on the recording and it went public just a few days ago. The content seemed like a death sentence for his presidential ambition, but Trump quickly hit back at those disgusted by what he said, calling them “hypocrites.”

His taped remark was deemed so sexist and offensive that at least one news site slapped a “graphic content” warning on the word-for-word transcript. As jaws dropped among female voters all over the country, Trump went on the defensive: “What I joked about, Bill Clinton did for real (and Hillary didn‘t say a word).” His campaign then gathered together several women who testified that Bill had sexually assaulted them, and that Hillary Clinton had insulted or even threatened them to stay quiet.

Don’t write him off just yet, cautioned commentators online. They realize that Trump is offering himself up as an “anti-candidate” at a time when a growing number of Americans are disillusioned with traditional politicians‘ moral pretensions. Trailing Clinton by a significant margin with just a month to go, it’s now too late for Trump to switch track and conform to political norms. His only chance now is to turn up the offensive, uncouth and unstatesmanlike appearance even further in the hope it will secure him a big upset win on Nov. 8.

You can‘t help but wonder exactly who Duterte had in mind when he said he would never kneel before Americans — Trump, or Clinton, or both? Here’s another unorthodox democratically elected politician who is going off the rails by today‘s political standards.

The Philippine president has ordered that suspected drug dealers and addicts be killed and picked a fight with every foreign leader or institution who dared criticize the move. It was sheer hypocrisy for the United States to condemn his war on drugs, considering that American colonial rule over the Philippines was brutal in the extreme. The countries of the European Union also once jailed or massacred people in the countries they colonized. The United Nations, meanwhile, should solve its own problems of superpower politics that have allowed countless more innocents to be killed, he quipped.

Go ahead and withdraw your aid, Duterte dared the US and EU. But before going all guns blazing against America, perhaps he should pause to seek advice from one Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin also directed a highly controversial anti-drug campaign, but he’s since been able to rely on Washington as a soft cushion to fall back on. In fact, the coup-ousted former Thai prime minister has preached political morality to sympathetic ears in the United States — which is some achievement considering the previous fuss caused there by his government‘s war on drugs.

You may think Trump and Duterte are breaking all the rules, but at least they have stayed away from religion. For baffling political statements on this subject, does anything beat Thaksin’s “If I ever come back to Thailand, I‘d like to be an upholder of Buddhism”?

To be fair, he was only answering a question at a meeting with supporters in America, where his target was “disunity” among Thais and a would-be charter “written by people who had my face in mind.” But then again, when asked what he would do if he ever returned to Thailand, he should have left religion out of it. For starters, Buddhism preaches self-less existence, whereas few people are so full of themselves as politicians.

Killing violates Buddhist precepts, as does telling lies and drinking liquor. And those precepts cover not just monks, but anyone and everyone who professes to be a Buddhist. Thousands were killed in Thaksin’s anti-narcotics war, he lied about what he owned in constitutionally required asset reports, and there are clips of him intoxicated. Maybe he should just stick with the “champion of democracy” title.

You may be wondering what the moral of this tale is. The moral is that there is no moral in politics. As to the question of who among the trio is the sincerest, I‘ll let you be the judge.

By Tulsathit Taptim

Tulsathit Taptim is a former editor-in-chief of the Nation, which is published in Thailand. -- Ed.

(Asia News Network/The Nation )