During his visit to Poland, President Donald Trump courted Polish political leaders despite their clear and stated intention to transform the nation into a virtual dictatorship run by a single ruling party.
When the president took the microphone, I hoped he would chide his hosts, stating that while the United States treasured its longstanding alliance with Poland, he could not stand by silently while the country gave up press freedom, certain rights of assembly and its dispassionate judges.
The American so-called leader of the free world instead choked. Trump flattered his Polski hosts the way he so dearly likes being flattered by visiting dignitaries. He cozied up to President Andrzej Duda, head of the ruling rightwing Law and Justice Party.
Duda is a political hack once considered too undisciplined and inexperienced for high office. However, this puppet enjoys the backing of Law and Justice party chair and co-founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski (who lost his own bid for president in 2010).
Trump, instead of criticizing the collapse of democratic values and ideals in Poland, played the role of obsequious gasbag. A great deal of his speech consisted of rambling praise for the 1940s Polish resistance against the Nazi invasion under German dictator Adolph Hitler.
Three weeks after Trump’s visit to Poland, thousands of peaceful protestors occupy public squares in the cities and villages to decry the party’s efforts to pass legislation to replace the National Council of Judiciary. This move, if successful, enables Duda to oust hundreds of judges — from the Supreme Court on down — and replace all with new stooges handpicked by the Law and Justice Party.
That party already has constructed a Constitutional Tribunal that operates with virtually no checks and balances. Trump offered no criticism of the tribunal, dismissed by The New York Times as “a rubber stamp for government initiatives.”
Also gone is the once-unfettered television and radio communications system. Communications are now subservient to Law and Justice Party leaders. Every move seems calculated to change the democracy into a dictatorship. If the American press operated like the Polish Press, there would be no exposing of Trump’s lies and ethics breaches. To sum up, Poland is experiencing a tyranny of democracy.
One thing or the other is likely to happen: Poland either will see riots similar to recent protests in Germany or its citizens will capitulate. Instead of a vibrant democracy in Poland, picture a nation like Turkey run by a ruler with an iron hand. Kaczynski’s avowed big move is to have Poland secede from the European Union.
When Trump’s bromide-laden speech ended, he succeeded in just one thing in the eyes of all European heads save France and Poland. He had supplanted British Prime Minister Theresa May as the laughing stock of Europe. But no one is laughing at the possibility of a European Union minus prosperous Poland. Timing is everything. If Trump visited Poland now he’d find that his previous cheers from the crowd had turned to jeers.
Kaczynski and Duda had bused in their supporters to greet Trump. They planned well to put on a dog-and-pony show for the American president.
And Trump pasted on a smile and rode that pony while Duda led it by the reins.
Hank Nuwer is a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” “The Hazing Reader,” “Wrongs of Passage” and many other books. Send comments to email@example.com.