There were actual white flecks of spittle dotting the corner of Donald Trump’s mouth Monday as he explained to a weary nation that what it needed most was a CEO who can defeat ISIS with air conditioning and restore American greatness by giving tyrants all they’ve ever wanted from us—sky-stabbing gilt high-rises, multiethnic beauty pageants, and a big swinging dick with whom they can build up the bottom line. One day, a future Gibbon will mark The Donald’s live-from-the-barstool candidacy announcement as the moment the decline and fall of the new Rome went from likely to inevitable. For now, we have only PolitiFact to tweet us through civilizational collapse.
The demise of great powers is never a merely a self-manufactured affair, and your humble correspondent sniffs a foreign plot against America in the anointing of the pucker-lipped real estate mogul for commander-in-chief. Let’s start with all the dodgy regimes and dictators Trump has praised or apologized for or fecklessly attempted to “understand” in his long march to the White House.
Saudi Arabia. It’s beheaded 100 people this year including a bevy of migrant (female) workers who were accused of practicing sorcery or witchcraft; it’s repeatedly flogged a blogger for “propagat[ing] liberal thought”; it’s jailed women for driving cars; and it continues to exercise an ad hoc form of eminent domain whereby ancient and venerated holy sites are razed for the sake of lucrative land developments. Come to think of it, this sounds perilously close to what a de-regulated Trump Organization might get up to someday if 2016 goes full comb-over. “Saudi Arabia, they make $1 billion a day,” Trump said this week: “$1 billion a day. I love the Saudis. Many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships. We say ‘We’re gonna protect.’ What are we doing? They’ve got nothing but money.”
Russia. Trump just told Bill O’Reilly: “Putin has no respect for our president whatsoever. He’s got a tremendous popularity in Russia, they love what he’s doing, they love what he represents. I was over in Moscow two years ago and I will tell you—you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can’t. I would be willing to bet I would have a great relationship with Putin. It’s about leadership.”
It’s also about rubles. During the above-referenced visit to Moscow for—what else?—the 2013 Miss Universe contest, Trump declared “plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.” Trump didn’t specify which companies, or which “this” he was referring to or where the latest five-lettered behemoth might eventually pop up to deliver its mirrored charms to “those people.” But according to Kremlin propaganda organ Russia Today, the mogul struck up a friendly rapport with oligarch developer Araz Agalarov, owner of Crocus City Hall, which served as the venue for Miss Universe 2013. That pageant, of course, is co-owned by Trump and NBC Universal. “How ’bout you, sweetheart? What would you do to change the world with me in the Oval?” … “Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, Order of Lenin for Snowden, and world peace.”
United Arab Emirates. Donald Trump Townhouses and Villas is working with an Emirati firm called DAMAC Properties to build the Trump International Golf Course in Dubai, much of it constructed by foreign workers who make between $150 and $300 a month after landing and having their passports confiscated by their contractor employers in a modern form of indentured servitude—they have to pay for the privilege of coming over to work under such conditions.
A year ago, artist Molly Crabapple confronted Trump at a press conference in Dubai to ask if he was pleased that those building his Gulf paradise made such a pittance. He refused to answer the question because it wasn’t sufficiently of the softball variety he and his press handlers had expected of their audience. You know, the kind whereby he’d be asked to expand on his prior observation that “the world has so many problems and so many failures, and you come here and it’s so beautiful. Why can’t we have that in New York?” (The minimum-wage and 13th Amendment just get in the way.)
North Korea. Well, really this was a cudgel taken up on behalf of Dennis Rodman, our goodwill ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and, more important, a onetime contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. “You look at the world; the world is blowing up around us. Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have,” Trump said of the athlete who praised the dictator of the world’s only remaining Stalinist slave state as a “good-hearted kid.” Granted, this was before Kim had his defense minister killed with anti-aircraft guns for nodding off during a compulsory military parade—and possibly because he ran out of his other favored instruments of execution, mortars and flamethrowers.
Rodman came back from one of his trips to Pyongyang and declared that what Kim wants most of all is for Obama to pick up the phone and rap at him. Trump thinks this sounds like a plan. “Maybe that is not the worst thing, folks, instead of going through this whole charade we do every year,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the worst thing that somebody actually calls, because this world is just blowing up around us. We are doing nothing. It’s not a very big deal to make a phone call.” Flamethrowers, dude.
Egypt. Now here The Donald has shown himself to be very presidential with a little strategic flip-floppery. When Tahrir Square kicked off in early 2011, he was glad to see the back of Hosni Mubarak, telling a group of reporters, when the Egyptian strongman delegated responsibility to his vice president: “So far, things are looking all right. [Mubarak] lives in tremendous estates all over the world. Supposedly, he’s taken $50 to $70 billion. Is this the kind of a leader they want? I don’t think so.”
Nearly a year later, however, Trump thought so very much, since by then he was harping on doom-and-gloom for the most populous Arab state. In November 2011, he tweeted: “Egypt is turning into a hot bed of radical Islam. The current protest is another coup attempt. We should never have abandoned Mubarak.”
There’s one influential billionaire Egyptian who’d likely agree with Trump’s latter assessment and who has already endorsed him for president: Naguib Sawiris, the second-richest man in Egypt, tweeted yesterday, “I think i ll support Donald Trump for next US presidency elections,a successful entrepreneur did well for himself will do well for America !”
Sawiris, the Coptic founder and chairman of telecom giant Orascom TMT Holding, was a prominent backer of Tamarrod, the ostensibly youth-led protest movement against the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. He was a principal, albeit quiet, financier and organizer of the “rebellion,” which culminated in a military coup two years ago by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, now the current president. Sawiris lent all the ample resources at his disposal, and that of his political party the Free Egyptians, to help topple Morsi, including a television network and Egypt’s largest privately owned newspaper. “Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he gushed to The New York Times in July 2013. “I am not ashamed of it.” Silent investors make the world go round; they also guard you while you sleep. Nothing says counterterrorism, baby, like a five-star 9-hole in Sharm el-Sheikh.
(The Trump camp did not comment for this story.)