Though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presides over a nominal democracy, he has surrounded himself with all the trappings of dictatorship: spending more than a billion tax-dollars on a "palace" for himself, hiring the mafia to smuggle his money-laundering kid out of Italy ahead of the police, conspiring to launder millions himself, brutalizing protesters, jailing critics and comedians, arresting and purging public institutions of his opposition, and more.
All that was missing was the power to bypass his own legislature and directly impose law on the country.
Until, that is, he called for a referendum giving himself these powers, and then rigged it, stealing millions of votes.
The rest of the world recoiled in horror from this, condemning the stolen vote and the authoritarian rule behind it.
All except Donald J Trump (who has deep business ties with the Turkish dictator). Trump phoned Erdoğan to congratulate him.
Yet Trump's public support for Erdogan is a serious thing: It's another nail in the coffin of America's prestige in the world as a beacon (no matter if flawed) of freedom. Trump's seeking out the favor of Erdogan, like his shameless courting of Putin, should startle Republicans out of their favorite recurring fantasy: that Trump will go "mainstream" and support democratic norms in America and elsewhere.
It's doubtful that Trump will engage in mass imprisonments of journalists, judges and professors. Even Putin doesn't do that; the Russian leader prefers to make an example of certain people.
Yet Trump has been inciting hatred against the press (to continue with that example) since the inception of his candidacy, singling out individuals like NBC's Katy Tur for heckling; confining the press to pens, like caged animals, and inciting enough hatred that double layers of security were required for pool reporters by the end of the campaign.
Trump's congratulatory call to Erdogan is revealing [Ruth Ben-Ghiat/CNN]