This was originally published in the November 12 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
President Donald Trump can’t wait to see Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week, but it’s hard to find anyone else here in Washington who shares his enthusiasm.
The Turkish President is an unwelcome guest in many parts of America’s capital. Last time he visited, his security detail waded into a melee with protesters in a savage outburst of authoritarianism on the streets of the US capital.
And his absence hasn’t made the heart grow fonder: His incursion into northeastern Syria caused almost universal outrage in the US Congress — as does this NATO ally’s purchase of sophisticated Russian arms and chumminess with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Still, Erdogan can expect the red carpet from a President who is obsequious to foreign strongmen. That performance will only add to the hostility of lawmakers who already think Trump may have been manipulated into greenlighting Erdogan’s march into Syria. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool,” he wrote in a bizarre letter last month to Erdogan, warning him not to go too far with the operation.
But Trump will be all smiles when they meet, because after clearing the way for a strategic and humanitarian disaster for America’s Kurdish allies in the region, he claims credit for saving thousands of lives by stopping the fighting. And the US President wants praise for getting American troops out of harm’s way – even though some will stay to forestall an ISIS resurgence.
Trump may view the Erdogan meeting on Wednesday as counterprogramming against public impeachment hearings. It could work.
But the idea that the President could see merit in standing with a foreign leader accused of crushing dissent and free expression — at the very moment when he’s accused of abusing his own power — is a commentary on the times.