One of the very, very, very few silver linings of Donald Trump’s presidency is his ability to tear off the mask (or hood, if you will) on the contradictions and hypocrisies of the United States government and its place in the world. “From the mouths of babes” is not quite the right words for this phenomenon, but his disregard for protocol and diplomatic niceties often leads to surreal if illuminating scenes like the one that played out at the G-7 conference in Biarritz, France.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump entered a room full of Egyptian and American officials for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and hollered out “where’s my favorite dictator?”
His words not only put his bizarre and disturbing love for autocrats on full display but also highlighted what the Wall Street Journal referred to as an “uncomfortable facet” of the US-Egyptian relationship: the fact that the United States barely issued a squeak of disapproval when al-Sisi took power in a military coup d’etat in 2013, deposing and arresting the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi.
The brutal crackdown that followed led to the detention of 22,000 people and what Human Rights Watch called the “worst incident of mass unlawful killings in Egypt’s recent history.” The demonstrators that had been celebrated by the U.S. for fighting for their freedom and democracy were suddenly subjected to large-scale death sentences, mass arrests, and the torture of dissidents, including journalists.
But President Obama, leader of the home of the brave and land of the free, refused to call it a “coup.” Barely a year later, Secretary of State John Kerry had visited Egypt, the previously frozen $575 million in military aid was on its way to Cairo, and al-Sisi had traveled to Washington to meet with former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, the Clintons, and Obama himself.
The fact that Egypt now only scores 22 out of 100 on Freedom House’s freedom rating is no trouble to President Trump, who is just as comfy with al-Sisi as he is with all the other murderous dictators and strongmen autocrats of the world, like psychotic Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillippines, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of course Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Watching Trump cozy up to all these dictators rightfully makes the nation queasy — but it’s the shamelessness with which he does it that gets attention. Liberals are far too willing to shrug their shoulders when a Democrat is in the White House at the destructive excesses of American foreign policy. The United States is supposed to be a defender of democracy and freedom around the world but our leaders will immediately turn a blind eye to violent authoritarianism when our strategic interests — and weapons contracts — are at stake. This hypocrisy is a blight on the American soul and we need to make sure our next president is willing to rethink our international relationships and lead with both principle and morality.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.