I have so far been pretty good about staying away from topics related to The Elephant in Every Room, no reflection on real elephants. Many others are presenting analysis, opinion and humor that is way better than anything I could write. But I need to pile on because, at this point, I am scared shitless about the evolving friendships of our Racist Narcissist Liar-in-Chief.
Here are the most prominent among his notorious new friends.
Vladamir Putin, Russia
Governance Style: Jails and murders opposition; has made billions overseeing a kleptocracy; ongoing interference with the elections in the US and Europe; open military incursions into sovereign states and support for Assad’s war, routine violations of international human rights laws.
Trump’s View: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” Trump has often discussed an alliance with Putin and been virtually silent on the subject of Russian interference with democratic elections or Putin’s recent “hits” on numerous dissenters. He recently suggested Russia should be allowed into the G7 trading group, to the shock of our allies. Trump has tried to develop a luxury hotel in Moscow and probably has many questionable financial relationships with Putin allies.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea
Governance Style: Absolute dictator, murders opposition including members of his own family; presides over a collapsed economy, torture, suppression of all civil rights; has hacked US IT system and imprisoned American visitors
Trump’s (most recent) View: “I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me…. I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture….” “We laughed….we had a very good relationship.” Trump has legitimized Kim’s murderous regime by meeting with him and making policy concessions without any commitment by Kim. No investments in N. Korea yet but after the summit, Trump observed “…you could have the best hotels in the world right there.”
Rodrigo Duterte, Phillipines
Governance Style: Has a policy of extrajudicial killings, including the murders of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and more than 60 journalists.
Trump’s View: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Trump owns a large commercial building in Manila.
Xi Jenping, China
Governance Style: Has jailed, tortured and disappeared dissenters and journalists; promotes religious intolerance and has limited citizen access to internet sites. Suspected of recently hacking information on US military plans.
Trump’s View: “He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death…He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.” Trump and his family have extensive business ties in China and probably billions worth of investments. He recently lifted sanctions on Chinese telecommunications giant, ZTE, following China’s approval of Ivanka Trump’s trademark applications and China’s decision to invest in an Indonesian project that will benefit Trump’s family.
Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia
Governance Style: Saudi Arabia is considered “the worst of the worst” countries by human rights and civil rights organizations. It has jailed, tortured and disappeared dissenters; promotes religious intolerance and is committing ongoing war crimes against civilians in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been identified by the US State Department as the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism.
Trump’s View: Trump recently sold $2.3 billion in artillery to the Saudis saying “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation…And they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth.” Trump’s family is under investigation for numerous economic conflicts of interest involving deals with Saudi banks and investment companies.
Recep Tayyep Erdogan, Turkey
Governance Style: Has eliminated independent press and jailed journalists; has been accused of genocide of Kurds inside Turkish borders; has lead an assault on civil rights and civil society
Trump’s View: “Frankly, he’s getting very high marks. He’s also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship and the countries—I think we’re right now as close as we’ve ever been … a lot of that has to do with a personal relationship.” Trump holds branding licenses to two buildings in Istanbul worth millions.
Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Egypt
Governance Style: Assumed power following a coup of democratically elected government; intolerant of dissent, has eliminated civil rights and routinely violates human rights
Trump’s View: “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job…” Trump owns two companies in Egypt.
At the other end of the spectrum, Trump has had a rocky relationship with our allies, including Germany, the UK, Australia, France and Canada. Trump most recently insulted our most important allies at the G7 meeting on trade, and the tariffs he has imposed on European and Canadian imports are predicted to be a boon to China, Russia and OPEC states. Trump has maintained a friendship with one of our traditional allies by going of his way to support Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who appears to be engaging in systematic genocide.
Trump’s associations are all the more troubling in the context of how he threatens the free media, scapegoats people who are most vulnerable, pardons white collar criminals (while announcing he himself is exempt from the law), and employs time-tested propaganda techniques, most of which involve lying.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Trump is hoping to be a dictator himself or maybe he just doesn’t know how to get along with the “popular kids” and must curry favor with low-lifes to make himself feel good. Probably both.
Of course, Trump’s relationships with everyone are unpredictable — but that is part of the problem. When our president becomes an unpredictable “friend” of dictators and murderers, and goes out of his way, unpredictably, to publicly insult our allies, we are in trouble.
And where are our national leaders on all of this? Politely troubled as we wake up to another day of surreal reports documenting corruption, inhumanity, and threats to our democracy.
Thanks to NPR https://www.npr.org/2017/05/02/526520042/6-strongmen-trumps-praised-and-the-conflicts-it-presents and The Atlantic for background information….https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/03/trump-xi-jinping-dictators/554810/