Bloomberg has a report on Donald Trump’s relationship with Theresa May. The particulars may not surprise you. In conversations between the two leaders, May “finds it almost impossible to make headway and get her points across, one person familiar with the matter said. Trump totally dominates the discussion, leaving the prime minister with five or ten seconds to speak before he interrupts and launches into another monologue.” Moreover, Trump complains to her about criticism he has received in the British press, and threatened to withhold a visit “until she could promise him a warm welcome.”
The reporting here echoes the primary revelations in a Washington Post report from last month. The report conveyed Trump’s disdain for Angela Merkel, who shares with May two qualities that alienate Trump: She is female, and a democratically elected leader.
The Post story quotes a Trump adviser describing Trump’s favorite world leaders. “Who are the three guys in the world he most admires? President Xi [Jinping] of China, [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Vladimir] Putin. They’re all the same guy.” That is, they’re all guys, and they all control political dissent with a firm, ruthless hand. This is the projection of strength that Trump had admired his entire career, since he was defending China’s bloody crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square. (“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”)
Trump’s insistence that foreign leaders lock down on protest and media criticism inevitably draws him toward dictatorships. His visit to Saudi Arabia was fabulously harmonious because the population was not allowed to protest. “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard,” marveled Wilbur Ross, the least woke member of the Trump cabinet. In Saudi Arabia, political protest is a capital crime, and one dissident had recently been sentenced to crucifixion, a fact that might have explained the uniformly warm welcome Trump’s delegation received.
Male dictators are Trump’s beau ideal of an admirable world leader. They can suppress the Fake News and jail their political opponents, and cannot understand why a leader should have to put up with either. Bloomberg reports that the British prime minister attempted to explain to Trump that sharp criticism “was simply the way the British press operate, and there wasn’t much she could do.” Obviously, Trump didn’t understand. He doesn’t understand this in America, either.