WASHINGTON – Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) compared President Trump’s administration, particularly the State Department, to a “totalitarian state,” saying that they do not communicate with Congress enough.
Lowenthal was asked for his assessment of Trump’s job performance on human rights issues versus former President Obama’s record.
“I thought Obama really had good people there, you know, human rights was high on his agenda, maybe not perfect. You know, I had my disagreements with him over deportations and a lot of other issues around here, but you could get everybody’s ear and nobody was closed off and it wasn’t kind of a totalitarian state where you couldn’t even speak to people direct,” Lowenthal said during an interview after his speech at the recent Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation rally for religious freedom in Asia on Capitol Hill.
“I mean, this whole thing about ICE, in part, is because they shut down all communication with everybody. They don’t talk to us at all. They don’t talk to people anymore. They just go do – and that’s the message that comes down from the top – don’t talk, and that’s, I think, the message on a lot of things, just do it. They’re not into deliberately taking away rights, but it’s just not part of their agenda and they’re not champions of democracy, as you can tell,” he added.
Lowenthal argued that the State Department is paying “less attention” to human rights violations now.
“To really stand up for human rights, you have to stand up for diplomacy. And a State Department that’s robust and really, when people are in trouble, we have the ability, Congress and others and the State Department, to access those countries and stand up against them. Now, as far as human rights, it seems that we don’t have the people anymore in the State Department. We don’t have the time to do this,” he said.
“There’s no overt policy that says they have changed anything, but there’s less attention to it. When you push them, like we did recently with Pompeo, to get involved with Will Nguyen, the American Vietnamese,” he added, speaking of the Houston grad student detained for 40 days after being arrested at a Ho Chi Minh City protest. “I don’t know where it was, but he raised the issue. So we can’t, we’re not going to knock that, but that withstanding it’s not an initiative that they are doing. It’s not something that they champion out.”
Lowenthal cited the “sham elections” that took place in Cambodia as an example to support his position. Lowenthal said the Cambodian government has outlawed the opposition party.
“We’ve trying to get our Cambodian bipartisan resolution on the floor to begin a sanction and delegitimize this government and see what else – to work with the EU and others to stand up and say there’s a loss of freedom and democracy in Cambodia,” he said. “It was the last hope for democracy and it doesn’t rise to the level of importance in this administration. And that’s it. So there’s no overt attempt to discredit it, but you have to champion if you really believe in it… I don’t see that happening.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who also delivered a speech at the rally, said the North Korean regime’s human rights violations should be addressed within any agreement involving the regime’s nuclear program.
“There’s no doubt North Korea’s human rights record is horrific, including the murder of an American citizen, Otto Warmbier,” he said. “That being said, I think the administration is right to prioritize as a priority stopping North Korea’s nuclear problem and nuclear development – the direct threat of mass murder and at the same time continue to speak out for human rights. We can do both.”
“We should approach any promises that Kim made with deep skepticism. If, in fact, the summit produces a good denuclearized North Korea, that would be tremendously beneficial for the safety and security of the Asian-Pacific region and of the world. But we’ve seen before, Kim is more than willing to lie and make empty promises in exchange for billions – that’s the same pattern that’s played out for a long time so, as Reagan famously said with regard to the Soviet Union, trust but verify. I’ve suggested here that I wouldn’t even start with trust, I would just start with verify,” he added.
Going forward, Cruz said the right way to deal with North Korea is from a position of strength and not weakness.
“One of the reasons we’re in this circumstance is because of eight years of weakness under the Obama administration. If history teaches anything, it is that weakness and appeasement only encourages dictators and tyrants,” he said.
Cruz was asked if he thinks the media is turning a blind eye to the dangers of communism in countries like North Korea.
“For far too long, there have been apologists for communism and those who simply ignore its deprivations. The value of a group like Victims of Communism is it shines the light on the millions who have been imprisoned, who have been tortured, who have been murdered as a direct result of that failed ideology,” he replied.
Cruz emphasized the need for the U.S. to support individuals who have experienced the “evil” of communism around the world.
“The tyrants of the world fear truth. The tyrants of the world fear light. They thrive in the darkness and that’s why we must stand united in shining light, in highlighting heroism and highlighting courage and speaking out for those like my family, like so many millions across the globe who have seen the jackboot of communism firsthand, who have seen the evil of communism firsthand,” he said during his speech at the rally.