Absolutely absurd that Trump has reacted more angrily to the Prime Minister of Sweden over the arrest of a rapper than to Saudi Arabia over the vicious killing of U.S. resident and @washingtonpost writer Jamal #Khashoggi.
Signed, A Member of the "African American Community" https://t.co/JzpfwftvGb
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) July 26, 2019
Normally I would have been relieved not to be required to have an opinion on rapper A$AP Rocky’s innocence or guilt. But I did wonder, as a very white person and an old one at that, if Trump’s indignant ‘appeals’ to the Swedish justice system went beyond You don’t understand our folkways! He’s a celebrity! He has money! Eugene Scott’s report at the Washington Post was illuminating:
“The attention the president is paying to a black rapper incarcerated abroad is not mainly about winning over black Americans but keeping existing supporters, mostly white Americans, from defecting.” https://t.co/y9h3WZSSvM
— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) July 26, 2019
… A$AP Rocky, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, has been accused of beating a man in the street on June 30 in central Stockholm.
In a video of the alleged assault, the rapper and those with him apparently threw a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.
Another video posted to A$AP Rocky’s Instagram account claims that the men followed him for four blocks and had repeatedly been asked to leave the artist alone…
Trump, a celebrity before he was a politician, appears to give more credence to the words of black musicians than he does black people working in policy and advocacy. He tweeted that he got involved with the effort to release A$AP Rocky after a request from Kanye West. Last year, he demonstrated his commitment to sentencing reform by commuting the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after Kim Kardashian West advocated for that.
He views entertainers as the most influential voices in black America. That could be in part because Trump does not have a black person working in a senior position in his White House. Some of the people the president mentions most when addressing issues like criminal justice reform and the black unemployment rate are hip-hop artist Kanye West and conservative activist Candace Owens, supporters of the president with no expertise in these areas…
Trump supporters are often criticized for turning a blind eye to or unapologetically supporting and defending the president’s prejudiced comments and positions on race. But in recent years, polling suggests that doing so has become more difficult for some of them. As my colleague Philip Bump wrote: ”Since 2017, even Trump’s base is more skeptical about his views on race. Among Republicans, the density of those who say he respects racial minorities fell 14 points over the past two years. Less than two-thirds of evangelicals now think Trump respects minorities; nearly three-quarters did two years ago.”
This leads some to believe that the attention the president is paying to a black rapper incarcerated abroad is not mainly about winning over black Americans but keeping existing supporters, mostly white Americans, from defecting. The Trump campaign has repeatedly communicated that its political strategy is prioritizing turnout of the base. Showing enough interest in a topic of importance to black Americans to give his surrogates talking points to defend him without deeply engaging in the real conversation could do just that.
Ah, the ever-popular I can’t be a racist, I have a black friend defense. Unfortunately, Sweden is a real country with its own interests, and apart from ruining Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter’s vacation…
…“Of course we have racism in our country, like other countries, but this case is absolutely not about racism.” She added that Swedes have been “a little disappointed . . . and a little hurt” over the doubts cast on the nation’s legal system and “don’t recognize ourselves in the picture that is being portrayed” by the president and other U.S. politicians.
Olofsdotter noted that the two nations have had a close bilateral relationship and that Sweden acts as the United States’ protective power with North Korea, given that Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Asked how the situation could be resolved, Olofsdotter said: “This cannot be solved. It’s a legal process. The trial will decide if he’s not guilty, or if he’s guilty what kind of repercussions or punishments.”…
… he’s further convincing the rest of the world that Americans are a bunch of belligerent morons who rely on our bulk to make up for our ignorance:
— Washington Post Opinions (@PostOpinions) July 26, 2019
… So let’s just say he didn’t have the inner workings of Sweden’s legal system in mind. Here’s an unsolicited briefing.
As prime minister, you can have your government propose laws and try to get parliament to decide on them, but once that’s done, your role in how they are implemented is absolutely zero. There certainly are countries around the world where the judiciary is little more than an instrument of the arbitrary powers of the ruling strongman, and where the political leadership can send people in and out of prison at their discretion. Sweden is most certainly not one of those countries.
A Swedish prime minister who tries to order a court to release a suspect or dismiss a case is first going to fail and then, with high probability, will be kicked out of office.
I wouldn’t say that our judiciary necessarily handles every single case in a way that is beyond any reproach, but its independence is far preferable to a system of arbitrary justice influenced by the whims of politics, be they domestic or foreign. The independence of the judiciary is rightly seen as a hallmark of a truly free society. In this we are no different from the United States.
In addition to being a free country, we are also a small country. Based on historical experience, we tend to be somewhat allergic to larger powers, be they in our immediate vicinity or not, trying to influence who is brought to justice in our country. If you cave in to one, you could be certain that others might try to do the same. The United States is a country friendly to us — others might not necessarily fit that description.
The three U.S. suspects will get a fair trial. No one doubts that. The outcome will be decided by the court — without any interference by any higher political authority within or outside of the country.
That’s the way it should be in a free society.
No doubt Otto Wambier would approve, were he still around to do so.