Donald Trump clearly has a fetish for Muslim strongmen. If Trump had a Tinder profile (and given Trump’s lack of transparency, he just might) it would likely read:
“Desperate for tall, dark Muslim strongmen who love discipline, hate dissent and are into bondage of his critics. Torturing and killing your own people a real turn on. Promise to be discrete about your human rights record. Lets dominate democracy together—I promise many ‘Cialis moments.’”
And it appears that many Muslim dictators and autocrats have “swiped right” to take Trump up on his offer. Just a few weeks ago Trump entertained Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House, his first visit there because President Obama had refused to meet with him given his appalling human rights record.
As a brief primer, since Sisi took power in 2013 by way of a coup, he has effectively forbid criticism of his administration. He has cracked down on the media. Prominent human rights groups have seen their leaders arrested. His forces routinely use torture against critics or make them disappear. One of the most appalling incidents was the Rabaa massacre in August 2013 when Sisi’s forces killed nearly 900 of his own citizens who were protesting.
When Trump met Sisi at the White House, did he raise Sisi’s reprehensible human rights record? Nope, instead Trump declared at a joint meeting with the Egyptian leader: “I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President al-Sisi. He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”
But Sisi may be old news. Trump’s latest crush appears to be with Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over the weekend Erdogan was successful in using democracy to undermine democracy by way of a referendum that will empower him at the expense of the other branches of government. As Professor Howard Eissenstat, an expert on Turkey at the Washington D.C. based Project on Middle East Democracy, put it, the referendum win “represents a remarkable aggrandizement of Erdogan’s personal power and quite possibly a death blow to vital checks and balances in the country.”
Making it even more concerning is that Erdogan, like Sisi, has increasingly clamped down on the media and dissent. As the Committee to Protect Journalists noted, in 2016 Turkey has become the “world’s worst jailer of journalists.” Think about that for a second. There are 195 countries in the world, and under Erdogan, Turkey is the worst in terms of imprisoning journalists.
Add to that, in 2016 nearly 178 news outlets were forced to close. Erdogan even demanded that a German comedian be criminally prosecuted for mocking him.
So how did Trump respond when the Erdogan championed referendum won? Did he express concerns over Turkish democracy veering to dictatorship? Of course not. Trump loves his Muslim men to be fierce.
Trump called Erdogan and congratulated him on his victory. But this should be expected because Trump and Erdogan have a history. Trump’s desire for Erdogan began well before Trump ran for office. You see, Erdogan also helped Trump make money.
And stunningly Trump even admitted as much in 2015 while appearing on Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com radio show. Trump, in an unusual display of honesty, told Bannon, "I have a little conflict of interest 'cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It's a tremendously successful job.” Trump added, “ It's called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it's two."
It appears Erdogan himself was at the opening of the Trump towers in this Muslim majority nation, per Ivanka Trump’s 2012 tweet: “Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!”
Is Erdogan still helping Trump make money off the Trump Towers? We simply don’t know—especially with Trump refusing to release his tax returns. But I can only imagine that to Trump, a Muslim strongman who also can help him make money has to be more arousing than a Viagra/Cialis IV drip. After all during the campaign when Trump was calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of all Muslims coming into America, I wrote about how Trump still loved Muslims who make him money.
But Trump—as his marital history makes clear—has a wandering eye. He also appears smitten with other Muslim strongmen. For example, the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, whose regime tortured and killed his own citizens as well as human rights activists who have protested his rule.
In 2016, President Obama refused to approve the sale of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets given the Bahrain leader’s failure to improve its human rights record.
But this is the very type of stuff that appears to turn Trump on. So last month Trump quietly reversed Obama’s decision and approved the sale of the advanced fighter jets to the Bahraini government.
Trump is probably attracted to these strongmen because he sees some of himself in them. Is there any doubt that Trump would love to shut down media outlets critical of him and silence dissent the same way these autocrats have done? Keep in mind that Trump stunningly even demanded that Saturday Night Live be canceled for simply mocking him.
There’s zero doubt in my mind that Trump is a wannabe dictator whose lust for power is no different than the Sisi and Erdogans of this world. While Trump may get off on these dictators, we must desperately protect the one thing that separates us from them: The United States Constitution. We must passionately safeguard the freedoms enshrined in it as if our lives depend upon it. And to be honest, given what we have seen from the strongmen Trump is so aroused by, our lives just might.