Trump Just Can’t Resist Cheering Authoritarians

While most of Washington was focused on  Donald Trump’s impeachment trial last week, the president made some comments on another subject that went almost unnoticed but warrant some attention.

Addressing a group of mayors at a White House summit called Transforming America’s Communities, the president praised the cooperation of President Xi of China in the effort to control the trafficking of fentanyl into the United States. The president said he had insisted on help from China as part of the trade deal negotiated late last year. But rather than simply touting the progress that has (ostensibly) been made, however, President Trump chose to highlight the “strong penalties” and the speed with which Communist China’s court system deals with those implicated in the illicit fentanyl trade.

And they’ve put in very strong penalties, and their penalties are really strong.  You want to talk about penalties? Those are strict. (Laughter.) And their court cases go slightly quicker than ours.  (Laughter.) Like — like one day. One day. They call them “quick trials.” They go quick. (Laughter.) They go so quick, you don’t know what happened.  (Laughter.) Ours take 15 years; theirs takes one day. But he was — he’s been terrific on that. And we’re seeing a tremendous — a tremendous difference in the fentanyl.

Note that the White House transcript of the remarks highlighted laughter from the audience several times during this portion of the president’s comments. As is often the case with President Trump, his injection of humor carries an underlying serious message: his tolerance of and even appreciation for authoritarian gestures. In this case, he clearly admired the unsparing efficiency of the Chinese criminal justice system. “Ours take 15 years; theirs takes one day.”

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