A person who can keep things under check

Aaron Blake at the Post points out that Trump’s abject hero-worship of dictators is a tell:

President Trump has once again given away the game on Saudi Arabia and his reverence for authoritarians. But his soft stance on the Saudis’ killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi also betrays this irony: By going easy on them, he’s conceding his own weakness.

Despite ostensibly putting pressure on Saudi Arabia this weekend to come clean, Trump in an interview with The Post’s Josh Dawsey seemed to marvel at that same government’s ability to snuff out unrest.

“He’s seen as a person who can keep things under check,” Trump said of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “I mean that in a positive way.”

It’s a bad time to mean it in a positive way, Blake points out. Yes, it is, and it’s also a bad time to drool wishfully about Keeping Things Under Check. That’s not actually the goal. We’re supposed to value open discussion and freedom of thought, not battening everything down whether or not there’s a storm.

While this might be the most poorly timed bit of Trumpian admiration for authoritarians, it’s hardly the first example of it. Trump has praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job” with his drug war, an initiative that has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings. He has praised North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for seizing power at the young age of 27, saying: “It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one.” He has praised stiflers of dissent such as China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi for consolidating power.

He’d like to keep us under check, but he can’t…yet.

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