President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for the state dinner with the first ladies at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China in November.

Credit: Thomas Peter/AP

Trump's Obsession With Authoritarian Leadership

March 5, 2018

During a speech to Republican donors Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, President Trump joked about consolidating power and being “president for life” like Chinese President Xi Jinping.

News analyst Charlie Sennott joined Boston Public Radio Monday to explain why he found that comment worrisome in the context of other jokes the president has made about authoritarian regimes.

“The guy keeps joking and being dead serious about his support for authoritarian regimes — whether that’s Putin in Russia, Duterte in the Philippines, al-Sisi in Egypt, or now, President Xi in China. This is getting serious,” he said. “This is a president who actually continually hits a note in favor of authoritarian government over others.”

Sennott said the president’s off-color comments would be more palatable for him if he had expressed similar admiration toward democratic leaders.

“I don’t hear him expressing great respect for those who are democratically elected who criticize him,” said Sennott.

He explained that Trump’s failure to explicitly condemn the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the presidential election in 2016 is “worrisome.”

“Why is he not going after Putin as an authoritarian person, who has not only terrorized his own country and limited freedoms in his own country and done things in the region that are what a bully does in the world landscape, [but has] attacked our country?” Sennott said. “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be very concerned about that.”

Charlie Sennott is a news analyst at WGBH, where he also heads up the GroundTruth Project. To listen to his interview in its entirety, click the audio player above.

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