President Trump’s embrace of dangerous authoritarian regimes is nothing new. While most American presidents have traditionally avoided associating with dictators and autocrats whenever possible, Trump has taken the opposite tract and openly expressed affection for strongmen like Vladimir Putin.
Now he’s preparing to open his arms to the illiberal right wing authoritarian leader of Hungary, President Viktor Orban.
Orban rose to power in 2010 on a blatantly Islamaphobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic platform, and that’s exactly how he’s governed ever since. Human rights groups have been openly critical of his government’s treatment of immigrants and religious minorities especially, and he’s attacked his political opponents incessantly on those issues.
After years of demonizing opposition parties, he secured a super majority in Hungary’s parliament for his Fidesz Party this last April, something he plans on using to change the country’s constitution to allow even more draconian reforms. EU officials worry he could also bend election laws to remain in power indefinitely.
Peter Szijjarto, the Hungarian foreign minister, is set to meet with new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tomorrow, something that would give Orban’s regime a degree of credibility that much of the rest of the civilized world has denied them.
“I’m fucking disgusted,” a State Department official told The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity, adding that Pompeo “cozying up to individuals like Orban” was just the latest example of the Trump administration embracing an authoritarian human rights abusing regime that has subverted democracy and the rule of law.
The man here representing the repressive Fidesz regime might be worse President Orban himself. More from the Daily Beast:
Szijjarto was no passive participant in the extended demonization of George Soros and Muslim refugees. Last year, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary characterized an ad campaign warning that Soros sought “the last laugh” on illegal immigration as invoking “sad memories”—that is, of 20th-century European fascism—and “sow[ing] hatred and fear.” In response, Szijjarto thundered that Soros “would like to settle hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Europe and Hungary with the help of the NGOs he finances.” For good measure, Szijjarto contended that the true antisemites were “these illegal immigrants,” not his colleagues in Fidesz.
At the time, it seemed a little out of the ordinary for a Manhattan real estate mogul like Donald Trump, someone who maintained business interests around the world, to embrace a political ideology that called for this dismantling of the global order in the name of nationalism. But that’s exactly what he did.
First, he allowed his campaign to be overrun by alt-right white supremacists like Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. Later, he gleefully aligned himself with right-wing nationalist movements across Europe like the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) that used anti-immigrant fearmongering to pass Brexit.
We were told that what Trump saw in those insurgencies was the same outsider spirit he felt his campaign represented here in the U.S. – not a kinship to the more racially charged elements that made the headlines. But those right-wing movements, as politically expedient as they proved to be, came with tremendous baggage – both the alt-right here at home, and especially the right-wing proto-fascist nationalist movements like Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party that have been gaining power across Europe in recent years.
During the campaign, the otherwise sane, “normal” Republicans told us not to worry about Trump’s increasingly hate-filled speeches and statements, or his cozying-up to nefarious forces at home an abroad. They were all for effect, they assured us, and they wouldn’t follow him into the White House.
With Pompeo’s official embrace of Viktor Orban’s leading anti-Semitic henchman set for tomorrow, one has to wonder how anyone could have believed that Trump’s presidency would have gone any other way.