ON APRIL 29th Donald Trump rang Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines. According to a leaked transcript, he said: “I just want to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Since Mr Duterte was elected in June last year, his anti-drugs campaign has led to the killing of around 9,000 people, mainly petty dealers and users. A couple of weeks earlier, Mr Trump had called the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to congratulate him on winning a referendum granting him sweeping new powers. Since an attempted coup last year, more than 100,000 Turks have been arrested or detained: the judiciary has been shredded, journalists jailed and media outlets shut down.
Last week, in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a nine-day foreign trip, Mr Trump praised Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (pictured). “Safety seems to be very strong” in Egypt, he gushed. Mr Sisi’s regime has locked up tens of thousands of dissidents. Not once in Saudi Arabia did Mr Trump raise the kingdom’s habit of flogging, torturing and not letting people choose their government, preferring to trumpet a $110bn arms deal: “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Mr Trump’s meetings later in his trip with NATO and G7 heads of government were, by contrast, sour affairs. The pattern is clear: this is a president who gets on better with authoritarian regimes than America’s traditional democratic partners.