The New York Times reports that President Donald Trump’s aides were “stunned” that he invited Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte to the White House.
I’m stunned that anybody would be stunned. In style, if not in scope, the two men are brothers from another mother.
Both have employed foul language in public, boasted publicly about their sexual performance and made vulgar references to assaulting women. Both have threatened the free press, challenged the legitimacy of the judiciary, attacked opponents as corrupt – and insulted the pope.
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Certainly, Trump has attempted nothing so horrifying as has Duterte, who has boasted of personally killing people and whose government has killed thousands of alleged drug dealers. Trump boasted that “I could … shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” but he hasn’t tested the hypothesis.
Duterte is only the latest autocrat to earn Trump’s admiration, following his earlier praise for the skills of Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Moammar Gaddafi and “smart cookie” Kim Jong Un. But the similarities between Trump’s language and Duterte’s are striking. Is it a case of imitation? Or are they both using the same authoritarian handbook?
The man Trump would have as his guest at the White House has attacked Philippine judges as drug addicts, telling the chief justice not to “order me around” unless she would “rather that I declare martial law.”
Trump tried to disqualify a federal judge from hearing a case against him because he’s “Mexican” and attacked the “so-called judge” who blocked his travel ban, proposing people blame the court system for future terrorist attacks. A top aide said Trump’s authority on national security “will not be questioned.”
Duterte, when he was mayor of Davao City, joked about the prison rape of an Australian missionary, saying “she was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first. What a waste.” He at first said that was just “how men talk.”
Trump, in footage that emerged during the campaign, boasted about assaulting women, saying he could “grab ‘em by the p– .” Trump’s campaign at first said this was “locker-room banter.”
Duterte has proclaimed: “I’m not impotent. What am I supposed to do? Let this hang forever? When I take Viagra, it stands up.”
Trump, in a presidential debate, spoke of the size of his genitalia: “He referred to my hands – if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”
Duterte, when Pope Francis tied up traffic in the Philippines, said he wanted to tell him, “Pope, son of a whore, go home.” Trump called it “disgraceful” of the pope to question Trump’s Christianity. He said Francis was “very political” and “a pawn” of Mexico.
The man with whom Trump would break bread in the People’s House also called President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” Trump has questioned Obama’s American birth and called him a “threat to our country” and “founder of ISIS.”
Trump’s new friend, who has spoken favorably of Adolf Hitler, said, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Duterte said he wouldn’t “stop because of the human rights,” daring opponents to assassinate him.
Trump once suggested that “Second Amendment people” – gun owners – could stop judicial nominees. He has been accused in court of inciting violence at his rallies. He proposed paying legal fees of those who “knock the crap out of” protesters.
Duterte said “f – you” to leaders of the European Union. Trump spoke of bombing the “s – “ out of ISIS and said China was “ripping the s – out of the sea.”
Duterte told drug pushers to “forget the laws on human rights,” saying, “I’d kill you. I’d dump all of you into Manila Bay and fatten all the fish.”
Trump once said that he would restore waterboarding and “much worse” for terrorists, and that the military would obey him.
Duterte has attacked newspaper owners and told journalists “you are not exempted from assassination.” Trump routinely blasts the “fake news” media and talks of restricting press freedoms (though happily not of assassination).
Duterte accused a senator leading an inquiry into his administration’s killings of being corrupted by the drug industry. Trump has lashed out at those investigating his administration’s ties to Moscow.
A report in March from the State Department – Trump’s State Department – said Duterte’s attacks on those “who have criticized his policies had a chilling effect on free speech and expression.”
Now Trump, after a “very friendly” talk with Duterte, wants to honor him with a White House visit. That’s not just chilling – it’s cold.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.