President Obama had a few words of praise for long-deceased Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh yesterday.
In otherwise bland remarks made after his first bilateral meeting with Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang, President Obama said the meeting concluded with a discussion of “the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”
This is factually true. President Obama was likely trying to be polite to a visiting head of state – one who shared with him a letter written by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman in which Minh “talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States,” according to Obama.
Nevertheless, was it really necessary tacitcly to praise a man who killed approximately half-a-million people in an effort to consolidate his power, or to concede ideological similarities between the founding of the United States and modern Vietnam? In Sang’s translated remarks, the Vietnamese president doesn’t mention Minh at all and doesn’t hint at any remorse over his actions. Instead, he noted that he and Obama ”touched upon the war legacy issue, including human rights” and that the two “still have differences on issue.”