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 tack 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.
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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 Wednesday, 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.
Orban and his Fidesz party have made the anti-Semitic dehumanization of George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire activist who backs human rights groups around the world, central in their attacks on opposition parties. Soros is a bogeyman to the American right wing as well, and Szijjzrto, the man here in the U.S. representing the repressive Orban regime, was one of the masterminds behind that campaign in Hungary.
Szijjzrto also helped craft and execute the very successful rhetorical assaults on Muslim refugees that remain the cornerstone of the Fidesz brand. More from the Daily Beast:
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.
It may be difficult to recall now, but at the time his campaign first got going, it seemed a little out of place 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 the dismantling of the global order that made him rich. But that’s exactly what he did when he made nationalism the underlying theme of his campaign, and later his presidency.
First, he allowed his campaign team 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), the group that used anti-immigrant fear-mongering 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 for Trump, 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 and 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.