President Donald Trump is out there, cracking casual jokes about our democracy’s possible rebranding as a dictatorship, because everything is fine.
Trump made the remarks on Saturday, during a closed-door fundraiser luncheon held at Mar-A-Lago, naturally. According to CNN, which came away with a recording, our commander-in-chief addressed the recent announcement that China would do away with presidential term limits, leaving Xi Jinping in office indefinitely. Trump thinks that sounds pretty good:
“He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great," Trump said. "And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day.”
Apparently, this allusion to his possible entrenchment as a dictator elicited quite a few laughs from his captive audience. CNN does not specify whether these were nervous laughs or genuine laughs, but of all the things one might feel upon reading these comments — anxiety, fear, resignation, nausea — surprise probably shouldn’t be one of them. Trump has previously described Jinping, a leader who has made a practice of jailing or disappearing his opponents and critics, as “a very good man.” In fact, Trump reserves a special admiration for tyrants and strongmen all over the world.
Following a controversial referendum in April that consolidated the power of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has imprisoned a staggering number of journalists, Trump was among the small handful of leaders to offer his congratulations. He once praised Rodrigo Duterte, the murderous president of the Philippines, for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in that country. Duterte’s war on drugs has widely been described as a human rights violation, and resulted in the state-sanctioned killing of thousands of Filipinos.
Then, of course, there’s Russian President Vladimir Putin, who needs no introduction, and for whom Trump sustained well-documented admiration throughout the 2016 election.
All told, the comments were pretty standard fare, and came alongside criticism of Hillary Clinton — whom Trump said his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, should investigate — and open-ended speculation as to whether or not she’s happy. He also faulted President George W. Bush for positioning us as the “dummies of the world” with the invasion of Iraq, which Trump likened to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest.”
Which actually feels like a pretty tidy summary of Trump’s approach to foreign policy, so here’s hoping that lifetime appointment doesn’t go through.