The only way President Obama could possibly make his decision to visit Ethiopia, whose abysmal human rights record has been criticized by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations, worse would have been to publicly criticize the democratic process while there.
Oh, wait–he did just that.
Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard reports ("Obama Criticizes the Democratic Process in Undemocratic Ethiopia"). Noting that even the president's usual allies questioned a visit to a country with such a bad human rights record, EEpstein writes:
Making matters worse, while speaking at a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, President Obama – in the words of the New York Times – “lashed out” at several of the Republican candidates to succeed him. First, he bemoaned “a general pattern [in the election] we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”
The Times continues:
Mr. Obama went on to note Mr. Trump’s assertion that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was not a genuine war hero. Mr. Obama, who defeated Mr. McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, said it was offensive to “challenge the heroism of Mr. McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism.”
But the president also made it a broader indictment of the Republican Party, many of whose leaders denounced Mr. Trump’s remarks as well. “The Republican Party is shocked, and yet that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets,” Mr. Obama said. “And I recognize that when outrageous statements are made about me, a lot of the same people who were outraged when it’s made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet.”
Mr. Obama said candidates should not “play fast and loose” with comments like that. “The American people deserve better,” he said. “Certainly presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to somebody who’s serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.”
Epstein nails what is so unsavory:
There is something more than a little unseemly about a U.S. president attacking, essentially, the democratic process, while visiting a repressive, undemocratic state. Obama’s slap against conservative talk radio, made in a country where the media are not free, was particularly repellent. What message does Obama's diatribite send to Ethiopia’s leaders – and the country’s people – about how the leader of the world’s leading democracy feels about our system of government? He sure doesn't make democracy sound all that great.
President Obama is notoriously thin-skinned but to charge that nobody in this country ever defends him and worry aloud that perhaps nobody is "serious" enough to be worthy to succeed him in a country like Ethiopia is beyond the pale.
When the president wants to give us a slap in the face, the least he could do isto make his outrageous and petulant remarks on American soil. That way, he is less likely to play into the hands of dictators.