President Trump’s candid conversation with a room full of Republican donors has enough controversial material to fill the Trump news cycle for at least a few days. Because, in addition to criticizing George W Bush for impulsively pushing the US into war, the president offered what is so far his only direct commentary on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s push to remove term limits from the Chinese constitution.
In the recording, Trump can be heard praising Xi – with whom he has shared a publicly warm but privately antagonistic relationship since taking office – congratulating him on his move to extend his term in power, and musing that maybe, someday, America should try appointing its own “leader for life.”
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Of course, it’s doubtful that Trump was genuinely expressing his preference for monarchism as a political system. Because as CNN points out, the statement was delivered during a private fundraiser with donors at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump’s speech was told “in a light-hearted manner” and was “peppered with jokes” – but that bit of information probably won’t make it into the headlines.
With the Mueller probe clearly still weighing on his mind, Trump also denounced the US’s “rigged system,” claiming once again that the electoral system was set up to intentionally disadvantage him.
As the Hill pointed out, Trump’s words reflected his deeply felt resentment that the various probes into his campaign-era conduct are continuing while his former rival Hillary Clinton is facing absolutely no scrutiny.
“I’m telling you, it’s a rigged system folks,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a rigged system. And we don’t have the right people in there yet. We have a lot of great people, but certain things, we don’t have the right people.”
Luckily for Xi, instead of contending with an adversarial media like Trump is often forced to do, the Chinese government has wide latitude to ban media and control the press. As we pointed out the other day, the Chinese government recently banned George Orwell’s dystopian satirical novella Animal Farm and the letter ‘N’ in a wide-ranging online censorship crackdown.
While Xi hasn’t spoken publicly about his long-term plans or how long he intends to run the Chinese government, experts believe the speech suppression – which came just days after the Chinese Communist Party announced presidential term limits would be abolished – are a sign Xi Jinping hopes to become a dictator for life.