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Invitations to dictators squander stature of U.S.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing the

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing the media following the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Manila, Philippines, Saturday, April 29, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

President Donald Trump has not figured out that leadership on the world stage is more than tough talk and military might. Nor is it similar to flattering an odious business partner just to make a deal. Intrinsic to the role is the ability to exemplify the moral authority behind our nation’s flag. The United States sometimes loses its way, but it should never forget that is the goal.

Trump’s invitation to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House, and his praise for Duterte’s high approval ratings, are abominable. Duterte is a thug, internationally despised. He is accused of overseeing more than 7,000 extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs since his election last year. He has insulted Pope Francis with an obscene phrase, and compared himself with Adolf Hitler for his willingness to slaughter 3 million drug addicts.

Cozying up to Duterte and offering him a White House stage was a big mistake. The explanation from two aides, the debatable proposition that America needs the Philippines to help contain North Korea, is undercut by Trump’s warm embrace of strongmen in Turkey, Egypt and Russia also accused of human rights violations. Then the aides backpedaled and said they, too, were surprised by Trump’s impulsive move. Perhaps Trump was using the playbook from his licensing deal on Trump Tower in Manila.

If our country must deal with the Philippines, it can do so quietly without involving the president and the symbolism of a state visit. Trump should at least understand that welcoming every two-bit dictator lowers the property value of the White House, of which he is just a custodian.

Duterte says he is not coming, so the nation will be spared the embarrassment. This time. — The editorial board