By Aaron Rupar, Vox
President Donald Trump is campaigning on criminal justice reform efforts that reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders, while suggesting he’d like the American justice system to work more like ones in authoritarian countries where drug dealers are executed after “fair but quick” trials.
If those two things sound hard to square with each other, that’s because they are. But the contrast serves as an especially stark illustration of the incoherency at the core of Trumpism.
Just days after his Super Bowl ad and State of the Union speech highlighted his support for legislation that makes a modest effort to reduce prison sentences at the federal level, Trump on Monday said the best way to further reduce the quantity of fentanyl in the US is to follow China’s lead.
“States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don’t have a drug problem,” Trump said during a White House event with governors. “I don’t know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty — death penalty — with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem. That includes China.”
(Trump made a number of other eyebrow-raising comments during the event, including saying of the coronavirus that “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat” and claiming the European Union “was really formed so they could treat us badly.”)
It should be noted that Trump’s claim about China and other authoritarian countries having “very little if any drug problem” is false. Records from the Chinese government indicate that there are more than 2.5 million officially registered drug users in the country, and that the total has increased significantly in recent years. (The real numbers are likely much higher since not all drug users have registered with the state.)