“He doesn’t even pretend to utter the words”

Indeed, in his first 102 days in office, Trump has neither delivered substantive remarks nor taken action supporting democracy movements or condemning human rights abuses, other than the missile strike he authorized on Syria after President Bashar al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against his own citizens.

“He doesn’t even pretend to utter the words,” said Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama. “Small-d democrats all over the world are incredibly despondent right now about Donald Trump — and that’s true in China, in Iran, in Egypt, in Russia. They feel like the leader of the free world is absent.”

A tipping point for many Trump critics was his invitation to Duterte to visit the White House. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s “cavalier invitation” and called on him to rescind it…

Yet Trump’s advisers said the president’s silence on human rights matters is purposeful, part of a grand strategy to rebuild alliances or create new ones. Trump’s outreach is designed to isolate North Korea in the ­Asia-Pacific region and to build coalitions to defeat the Islamic State in the Middle East and North Africa, senior administration officials said.