America’s decline from democracy to kleptocracy

Anne Applebaum writes: Daughters have long been used cynically to “humanize” thuggish men. The president’s strategically meaningless but politically useful bombing raid on Syria was justified on the grounds that Ivanka Trump had seen pictures of dying children and prevailed upon his softened heart, as in a fairy tale, to do something. Sarah Kendzior has laid out the remarkable similarities between Trump and Gulnara Karimova, the Uzbek dictator’s daughter, a “cosmopolitan socialite who married into a powerful business family” before making her mark as a fashion designer.” Like Trump, Karimova also masks “brutal practices under the pretext of a soft ‘feminism’ ” and styles herself an ideal modern woman.

But the real problem with Trump is not what she and her husband, Jared Kushner, contribute to the president’s “image,” but what their presence says about the culture of this White House. One of the things that distinguishes rule-of-law democracies from personalized dictatorships is their reliance on procedures, not individual whims, and on officials — experienced people, subject to public scrutiny and ethics laws — not the unsackable relatives of the leader. That distinction is now fading.

No ordinary public official would be allowed to dine with the leader of China, as Trump did, on the same day that China granted valuable trademarks to her company. No civil servant would be able to profit from the jewelry she advertises by wearing on public occasions. Only in kleptocracies are sons-in-law with broad international business interests allowed to make foreign policy. [Continue reading…]

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