COLUMN: The Vanity of Dictators

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees. 

<em>“Democracy is beautiful in theory. In practice, it is a fallacy.”</em>

— Benito Mussolini

You could feel the love. Watching American President Donald Trump sitting next to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, it was easy to see that these were two like-minded men. It was like two frat brothers reuniting 25 years after college graduation to rehash all their terroristic campus exploits in a wave of sociopathic nostalgia.

There they were in a bizarre hand clutch during a group photograph of Asian leaders with the American president. There was Trump offering a hearty guffaw when Duterte kicked the American press out of the room, calling them spies. There was Duterte singing to Trump. This nutjob actually wooed Trump in song.

Trump could not gloat about his relationship with Duterte enough. He loves the guy! The current state of U.S.-Philippine relations is at an all-time high, according to Trump.


Rodrigo Duterte is a mentally unhinged murderer who openly pines for dictatorial powers.

But, hey! Duterte said nice things about Trump! And, really, isn’t that the only part of foreign diplomacy that Trump cares about?

Like every other foreign trip Trump has taken in his short, incompetent reign, he vexed reliably democratic allies in lieu of murderous potentates. In Asia, Trump shook hands with another murderous thug, Vladimir Putin. Trump asked Vlad if he instructed Russian hackers to invade the American democratic process. Putin said nyet. Trump believed him.

Trump also met with China’s President Xi Jinping. One of Trump’s campaign promises was to get tough with China, which is a notorious oppressor of human rights and a currency manipulator. Xi showed Trump around the country and Trump reciprocated by doing nothing but accept praise.

And then there was that Kim Jong-un tweet. Trump, channeling the spirit of a 7th grader desperately wanting to be popular, tweeted a lament that Jong-un called him old. He bemoaned the lack of friendship between he and North Korea’s cult of personality, who also has a record of treating his people without dignity or acknowledging their civil rights.

Every major country’s intelligence officers construct a psychological profile of important world leaders. Most of these are voluminous. Foreign leaders can dissect the most powerful human alive using four words: Stroke Trump’s massive ego.

Trump envies dictators. If there was any doubt before the Asia trip to this assertion, there is none now.

How else do you explain an American president spending his first year in office with sparse examples of rebuking the behavior of despots? Trump’s dealings with the U.S. Congress, and with his own limitations of executive power, also makes the case that he wishes for the type of unimpeded power that many of his new friends wield.


Most of the accomplishments Trump and his staffers tout from the early days of his administration were executive orders. Candidate Trump railed against President Obama for such actions. The irony is actually lost on him.

It took nothing for Trump to sign these fiats…and that is why he did it. He abhors work. He finds the intricacies of governing to be tedious, arduous and unfulfilling. He would much rather tweet out his wants and desires and have Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan dedicate their efforts to procure their omnipotent liege’s wishlist.

The U.S. Constitution? Not Trump’s problem.

Consider that before his trip to Asia, Trump gave an interview where he openly rued the lack of influence he is suppose to exert on the United States Department of Justice. The fact that the Chief Executive is meant to be separate and independent from the Law and its’ application is silly and without merit to Trump. In Trump’s myopic mind, the Justice Department is no more than a McDonald’s filled with Happy Meals of political retribution against anyone that crosses or questions him.

That is what dictators do.

It is not hard to find the genesis of Trump’s insatiable lust for all forms of control. In the early 1980’s, Trump was an essential part of New York City’s reinvigorated image. The real estate mogul not only had his fingers in many new buildings rising up in Manhattan, but he was the darling of the gossip pages.

Trump was a staple of the New York Post and the New York Daily News. When his first two marriages withered and died, the tabloids went nuts printing every irrelevent detail. The New York media were his abiding, submissive minions.

It was not just New York City that gave Trump all the press he longingly craved. National magazines gave him nothing but softball interviews. He made cameos in a variety of television shows and films. Howard Stern went ga-ga everytime Trump was in the studio.

Trump always got his way. Everyone kissed up to him. His whole business apparatus was stocked with appreciative family members and sycophantic popinjays. And when he blew the dog whistle for his racist, undereducated, bigoted, deplorable followers at his campaign rallies, they showered him with pertinacious love that, to this day, is unwavering.

The difference between Donald Trump and God is that God does not think he is Donald Trump.

This is how dictators think.

Donald Trump wants dictatorial powers. He wants his (His?) way without question. He has little regard or caring for the limitations put on the Executive Branch of the United States government. He sees the raging, unbridled machismo exuded by his mancrush Putin and wants to emulate that style of leadership.

Nearly every dictator that Trump lauds—from Duterte to the Saudi royal family—bends the knee of their media to their will. Trump wishes to accomplish that with the Washington, D.C. press, which fails to adore Lord Orange with the same fawning appeasement that he bathed in back in New York City.

That is why Trump consistently takes shots at the media. They stand between his lies and an informed public. Trump uses Fox News as his propaganda arm against legitimate media outlets. He stirs resentment within his gullible base of supporters against the media. And to show their devotion, Trump’s followers—both civilian and in the U.S. Congress—cheer for the curtailing of the media’s attempts to reveal the mounting evidence that the President of the United States has broken his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And that is exactly what Trump hopes for; because that is what dictators do.

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