Like looking in a mirror

Today in New York, a thin-skinned, narcissistic autocrat with dangerously violent tendencies tried to burnish his dubious foreign policy credentials by meeting with a high-profile foreign political leader. Oh, and Donald Trump was there too:

Egypt’s president has been told the US would be a “loyal friend” to Egypt if Donald Trump is elected president, according to statements released after the pair met in New York on Monday.

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi flew in to the US for the UN General Assembly this week, meeting the Republican candidate at La Guardia airport.

Many people are saying that they had an outstanding talk, the best talk

While the sometimes hilariously unbalanced Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is often called the “Asian Donald Trump,” I think Sisi can make a strong case for being the reality TV star’s most uncanny foreign doppelgänger. And Trump appears to have gushed over the Republican Party’s favorite Muslim dictator, per his campaign’s readout on their meeting:

Mr. Trump thanked President el-Sisi and the Egyptian people for what they have done in defense of their country and for the betterment of the world over the last few years. He expressed great respect for Egypt’s history and the important leadership role it has played in the Middle East.

Mr. Trump expressed to President el-Sisi his strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.

The NYT’s Elizabeth Williamson is on the money in contextualizing this meeting:

Mr. Trump’s visit with Mr. Sisi was another example of the Republican nominee’s obsequiousness in the physical presence of his targets. In Mexico City last month, he praised President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican people, only to blast them a few hours later at a rally across the border in Arizona. On Monday Mr. Trump was flattering the leader of a nation of 82 million people, most of whom would be barred from the United States under Mr. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants.

Donald Trump is a salesman. If his dad hadn’t left him enough money to buy his way into elite New York society, he’d be managing a used car lot somewhere. And you have a lot better chance of closing the sale if you tell your mark exactly what he or she wants to hear. You tell the marks on the campaign trail about the border wall and Muslim immigration bans, but when you’re pitching the president of Mexico or Egypt, it’s best not to bring that up. In the lead-up to his chat with Sisi, Trump insisted on Monday to Bill O’Reilly that he “never said the term ‘Muslim'” when talking about his plan to profile people looking to enter the US.  This may seem like a contradiction, but only if you assume that you can take Trump’s own campaign website at its word.

To be fair, though, Hillary Clinton also made sure to grab some face time with the Egyptian strongman just before Trump did. And yeah, the guy is the president of Egypt, but even so, shame on both of our candidates for validating this goon. Sisi gets to go back home and crow that he had both of the US presidential candidates coming to him, right before he throws another couple hundred people in prison for being insufficiently adoring or whatever. But Clinton has at least expressed some criticism of Sisi in the past and seems (according to pool reports) to have at least raised issues like human rights and freedoms within Egypt, whereas Trump appears to have, in technical terms, slobbered all over the guy. That is a difference, even though it’s not enough of one.


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