Whiplash remains the theme of the Trump transition. Having already scaled down or abandoned several of his core campaign promises, he now feigns disdain for autocrats.
After worshiping despots for decades, the Donald yesterday denounced the cooling corpse of a Cuban caudillo as “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades…. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
Castro certainly was a bad hombre, but Trump typically finds much to admire in far more hideous Communist regimes.
For example, earlier this year, the Republican president-elect described the peaceful 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square as a “riot.” In 1990, Trump praised the totalitarian state’s ensuing massacre of several hundred demonstrators: “The Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”
Trump’s fondness for Communist repression extends to the world’s last Stalinist despot, Kim Jong-un:
“If you look at North Korea — this guy, he’s like a maniac, OK? And you have to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games. And we can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles. And he really does have nukes.”
Touched by this fulsome praise, the North Korean dictator endorsed Trump. Kim’s people, meanwhile, are reportedly resorting to cannibalism to cope with the extreme famine caused by his misrule.
Trump’s justly legendary love for Putin stems from strong personal and philosophical affinities. They and their followers “want and expect our government to serve the president.”
For years, the Republican nominee has lavished praise on the Russian dictator: “he’s doing a great job… rebuilding Russia….” After Russia invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea, Trump wrote, “I believe Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire. He has zero respect for Obama or the U.S.!” And: “Putin has become a big hero in Russia with an all time high popularity. Obama, on the other hand, has fallen to his lowest ever numbers. SAD.”
Throughout the campaign, Trump routinely contrasted Putin’s supposed strength with Obama’s alleged weakness: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”
Worse, Trump falsely equates Russia’s human rights abuses with those in the United States. When pressed on Putin’s habit of killing journalists who criticize him, the GOP nominee bizarrely replied, “I think our country does plenty of killing, also….”
Putin is not the only dictator Trump rates as a superior leader to Obama. Of Bashar al-Assad, Putin’s client dictator and fellow war criminal, Trump said, “I think in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A and our president is not doing so well.”
Trump’s admiration for war criminals who bomb civilians and gas opponents with chemical weapons extended also to the Butcher of Baghdad:
“We shouldn’t have destabilized Saddam Hussein, right. He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists…. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over….”
Similarly, Trump misses the late Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi:
“We would be so much better off if Gaddafi were in charge right now. If these politicians went to the beach and didn’t do a thing and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gaddafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we’d be — at least they killed terrorists, all right? And I’m not saying they were good, because they were bad, they were really bad.”
But not as bad as Fidel Castro, evidently.