Making the click-through worthwhile: LeBron James chooses to stand with China; the U.S. examines its options for leverage with Turkey; and Hunter Biden admits something obvious about his past employers.
LeBron James and Donald Trump Finally Agree on Something: Abandoning Hong Kong
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.” — LeBron James.
LeBron James announced that, like everyone else in the NBA, he finds the imprisonment of one to two million Uighurs in concentration camps and increasingly violent crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong simply too complicated and nuanced to comment upon.
“I think when we talk about the political side, I think it’s a very delicate situation. A very sensitive situation. And I think for me personally, for any of you guys who know me or always cover me, you know that when I speak about something, I speak about something I’m very knowledgeable about. Something that hits home for me. Something I’m very passionate about, and I felt like with this particular situation it was something that not only was I not informed enough about, I just felt like it was something that not only myself of my teammates or the organization had enough information to talk about it at that point in time. And we still feel the same way.”
But the situation isn’t so complicated that James doesn’t feel comfortable criticizing the one guy who dared tweet, “Stand with Hong Kong.”
“I think that’s another situation that should stay behind closed doors. I think when we all sit back and learn from the situation that happened, understand that what you could tweet or could say . . . We all talk about this freedom of speech. Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, and you’re only thinking about yourself. I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
Lest you think this was an isolated slip of the tongue:
“That’s just my belief. I don’t know. That’s my belief. That’s all I can say. I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation. And if he was, then so be it, but I have no idea. That’s just my belief that when you say things or do things, and you know the people that can be affected by it, and the families an the individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed. And also sometimes social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well. But that’s just my belief.”
See, if Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey just had a little more “education,” he would see the other side of the story about concentration camps and brutal police crackdowns. It’s complicated. On one side, you have the people who don’t want to be put in the concentration camps, and on the other side, you have the people running the concentration camps. On one side, you’ve got the cops in Hong Kong, and on the other side, you’ve got the people being beaten and shot. Who among us can say who’s right, you know?
James also tweeted, “My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it . . . Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk About that.”
I don’t know about you, but my heart just breaks about all the difficulty that some of the world’s most highly paid and well-treated athletes on the Golden State Warriors and throughout the NBA have been through this week. I’m sure that James and his teammates have been through almost as rough a week as the Uighurs or Hong Kong protesters.
And no, our president is no better and is in fact even more shameful, considering the traditional role of the President of the United States in standing up for American values. No one’s asking the president to nuke Beijing or deploy troops to Hong Kong. Just stand up for what’s right and denounce the abuse of innocent people, instead of insisting that a new trade deal will resolve the situation.
In case you missed it, our president shrugged and declared, “I think great progress has been made by China in Hong Kong. I’ve been watching, and I actually told the vice premier, it really has toned down a lot from the initial days of a couple of months ago, when I saw a lot of people and I see far fewer now.” [Note: Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong Monday night.] “We were discussing it, and I think that’s going to take care of itself. I think this [U.S.-China trade] deal is a great deal for the people of Hong Kong to see what happened. I think this is a very positive thing for Hong Kong. But it really has — the escalation, it really has de-escalated a lot, and we were discussing it.”
Lest you think that the situation is calming down, Chinese president Xi Jinping said Sunday in Nepal that any attempt “to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”
As Melissa Chan observes, “Between LeBron and Kerr you’ve got some pretty well-known social justice sports guys whose social justice begins in America but ends at Communist China’s doorstep. Or put another way — willing to give Americans a hard time but not any Chinese.”
Precisely. Both LeBron and Kerr specifically are outspoken about disrespecting the rights of minorities, about police abuses, and about a government abusing its power and authority here in the United States. But when faced with the same issues, in a conflict where one side is effectively paying the NBA enough, these guys suddenly go silent.
On paper, any entity in America that was wealthy enough could purchase the silence of NBA superstars. NBA revenue from China is estimated at $500 million annually, although it could be higher. If the National Organization of Police Organizations thinks NBA players have unfairly demonized cops in their discussions of police brutality, then start passing the hat. The United States has roughly 700,000 police officers; throw in non-uniformed personnel and federal agents and you get up to about 865,000. Surely, some civilians would generously contribute to the “Let’s Purchase the NBA’s Silence” fund.
If everyone in law enforcement kicked in $579 or so — less than $50 per month — they could outbid China and sign a deal with the NBA that pressured the players into not speaking about topics that could offend U.S. police organizations. Every time there was a controversial police shooting, LeBron would have to go out in front of the cameras and declare that the situation was “complicated,” and how he felt like he just didn’t know enough about the circumstances to comment, and that any of his colleagues who did comment were misinformed or not educated.
That’s how it works now, right? Like the old joke goes, we’ve established what they are; now we’re just haggling over the price.
What Do We Do Next Regarding Turkey and the Kurds?
It would be good if tonight’s Democratic presidential debate asked the candidates about what to do next regarding Turkey, the Kurds, Syria, and the couple hundred escaping ISIS. Not just denouncing the president, which will be easy, but laying out what they would do differently starting from this moment if they were sworn in and working in the Oval Office starting tomorrow.
Yesterday morning, Trump speculated that the Kurds are deliberately releasing Islamic State fighters to get the United States involved militarily, but that they will be “easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came.”
You may be encountering people online who deploy the same argument about this moment that the Obama administration deployed about the Iran deal: “Either you agree to the administration’s approach, or you want all-out war in the Middle East.”
As of this writing, the invitation to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the White House next month has not been rescinded.
Keep in mind, Turkish forces deliberately fired at U.S. positions. You hear a lot from administration defenders these days that any effort to assist the Kurds as Turkey tries to destroy them would be “attacking an ally.” If they’re shooting at our troops, they’re no longer an ally. This should be a deal-breaker and a relationship-breaker. If the Turks want to argue that the United States has never prioritized fighting the PKK enough, they’re free to do that; it’s now abundantly clear that they don’t prioritize fighting ISIS enough for our security interests.
The announced sanctions are nice. But there are a lot more options.
- End all U.S. arms sales to Turkey.
- Remove all U.S. nuclear weapons from Injirlik Air Base, along with all U.S. forces.
- Begin sharing intelligence with the Kurds about what we know about Turkish offensives, if we haven’t already.
- Move to expel Turkey from NATO. We’ve been lamenting the increasingly awkward nature of this alliance for the past fifteen years. As the Turkish government has been warming up to Russia and China, and increasingly hostile to their European neighbors, it’s fair to ask whether this alliance still works for anyone involved. At the very least, we need to use this option as leverage.
- Temporarily suspend visa services at embassies, as both countries did to each other in 2017.
- Increase our warnings to U.S. citizens about traveling to Turkey.
- Stop opposing resolutions at the United Nations denouncing the Turkish incursion into Syrian territory.
- Recall our ambassador and or request the dismissal of theirs. (There is probably value in keeping the lines of communication open, even if it’s just to make clear how furious we are about this.)
The president periodically insists that ISIS is destroyed, and more or less ignoring the escaped ISIS prisoners in his speeches. Yesterday at the Values Voters Summit, he said, “So let’s see what happens. And it’s a long ways away. We killed ISIS. We defeated — we did our job. We have to go home. We did our job.”
ADDENDA: Hunter Biden gets the slowly-walking-through-a-garden interview treatment from ABC News.
“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part. Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don’t believe now, when I look back on it — I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all,” said Biden. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is . . . a swamp in — in — in many ways? Yeah.”
“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake,” Hunter Biden told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
“If your last name wasn’t Biden,” Robach asked, “do you think you would’ve been asked to be on the board of Burisma?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not, in retrospect,” he said. “But that’s — you know — I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden.”