News & Politics

'A License to Kill': Conservative Writer Argues Trump Is Empowering Dictators Abroad — Here's How

"This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident."

Photo Credit: White House

Why would Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at a crucial time in his assent, risk it all with a precarious scheme to murder a critical journalist — as multiple reports suggest he has?

Perhaps he thought he could get away with it. After all, President Donald Trump has given him every reason to think he could.

That's what Max Boot, conservative commentator for the Washington Post, argued in a new column Wednesday.

"Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it," wrote Boot.

He continued:

This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy, and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

Boot argued that Trump doesn't care about how these dictators treat their own people — only how they treat him.

It's one of the most troubling elements of Trump's rise. As a political neophyte when he threw his hat in the ring for president, many could have hoped that Trump would have followed his party's lead on foreign policy matters. But Trump's early bizarre affection for Russia's Vladimir Putin turns out not to have been a unique aberration from GOP orthodoxy but a sign of his political disposition. Even though the GOP has shown its willingness to accommodate authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia before, most Republican lawmakers are now turning against the dangerous regime in the wake of the apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Thus, it is hardly surprising that Trump has shown so little outrage about the fate of Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for an American newspaper who was reportedly murdered in a NATO country," Boot wrote. "Trump’s threat of “severe punishment” is undercut by his willingness to accept at face value Saudi denials of complicity — just as he accepted Putin’s denial of hacking the Democratic Party."

He concluded: "This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident. Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill without worrying about the American reaction."

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.