The Dictator Dating Game

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by John Feffer

Voiceover: Here’s the star of the show and your host, Steve Bannon!

Applause.

Steve Bannon: Thank you! It’s great to be back in the limelight. And welcome once again to the Dictator Dating Game. It’s time to meet our eligible dictators. And heeeeere they are!

Dictator number one is famous for all those great photos of him shirtless in the wilderness — riding horses, shooting bears, and threatening Ukrainians. He loves uncontested elections, poisoning his overseas enemies, and moonlit walks along the Crimean beach. Confidential tip: he’s been making eyes at our contestant for several years now. Meet…Vladimir Putin!

Applause.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Steve. But I’m not a dictator.

Steve Bannon: Aw, don’t be modest, Vlad! It doesn’t become you.

Dictator number two was born in 1983. He’s the adorable third-ever leader of his country. Maybe you’ve seen him giving on-the-spot guidance at the Kumsong Tractor Factory in Nampo. He loves killing members of his own family, maintaining absolute control over the political realm, and playing hide-and-seek with nuclear weapons. Confidential tip: he’s already been out on a date with our contestant and it went really well! Meet…Kim Jong Un!

Applause.

Kim Jong Un: Thank you, Mr. Steve Bannon. I am not a dictator either. I am the constitutional leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Steve Bannon: Glad to see that we share the same working definition of “democratic,” Chairman Kim.

Dictator number three was born in 1985, so he’s the puppy of the bunch. He’s not technically the head of his country, but he sure acts that way! He loves waging war on really, really poor countries, locking his country’s richest men in a hotel and extorting money from them, and magnanimously letting his citizens go to the cinema once in a while. Confidential tip: He’s been practically dating our contestant’s son-in-law, but now he wants to move to the next level. Meet…Mohammed bin Salman!

Applause.

Mohammed bin Salman: Yes, it’s true: I like Jared very much, but in Saudi Arabia we’re allowed to have as many as four wives.

Steve Bannon: Touche, MbS! Now, are you happy to see us or is that a Jared in your pocket? Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

Laughter.

So, those are our three eligible dictators. And it’s time now to meet our contestant, who has been wooing strongmen for six decades. And heeeeere he is!

This dear friend of mine is sure to make any dictator’s head spin. He’s got small hands, a monstrous ego, and a limited command of the English language. But none of that matters in the world of geopolitics. Today’s contestant has control over the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world and likes to keep his opponents on their toes by coming up with completely new policies every hour on the hour! His hobbies include being mean, separating children from their families, and firing members of his own administration. Hey, no hard feelings on that last one!

Please welcome, Donald Trump!

Applause (mixed with boos).

Donald Trump: Good to see you again, Steve. You are living proof that I can treat people like dirt and they’ll still kiss my ass.

Steve Bannon: That’s power for you — and why we all want it! Now, tell us a little bit about why you wanted to be on the show tonight.

Donald Trump: As you know, Steve, I’m not a dictator. I was elected by the vast majority of the American people —

Steve Bannon: Actually, you lost the popular vote.

Donald Trump: Heya Sloppy Steve, am I going to have to fire you a second time?

Laughter.

Steve Bannon: My bad! Sorry to interrupt…

Donald Trump: I’m not a dictator, but I very much admire dictators. No elections, just campaigns. No interfering judges or legislators. The adulation of the people. That’s a great gig! Look at Xi Jinping. President for life. One day we should give that a shot here in America.

Steve Bannon: So, you’re here to get tips.

Donald Trump: Bingo, Steve. But also to form a true, lasting partnership. I want a dictator to call my own. One true alliance. With someone who won’t get kicked out of office. Who can love me warts and all.

Steve Bannon: The bigger the warts, the bigger the love! So, let’s move on to the questions and see who emerges tonight as top tyrant. Your first question, Mr. President.

Donald Trump: Dictator number one. We have a cozy date coming up in Helsinki this month. How do you plan to make the magic happen? How about a little pressure to get our Iranian friends out of Syria?

Vladimir Putin: Oh, Donald, that is so not sexy. That’s like asking about my other assignations on our first real date. In Helsinki, let’s go big or go home, as you Americans like to say. How about a new Yalta, me and you? We get Crimea and Syria, you get a copy of a certain DVD, a whisper in the ears of our Iranian friends to stay away from the Israeli border, and our promise to lay off the Baltic States. Deal, no deal?

Shout outs from audience.

Steve Bannon: Ooh, Vlad is playing hard to get. But you like that, don’t you Mr. President? Next question!

Donald Trump: Dictator Number Two, we got it in on in Singapore. But I’m worrying now that you’re getting cold feet. How do you propose we rekindle the romance?

Kim Jong Un: You showed me a good time in Singapore, Mr. Donald Trump. But then you sent your emissaries to my capital and they tried to twist my arm. I’m not into kinky stuff! I was very clear about what you need to give me for this relationship to work out. It’s got to be a staged, mutual process, with a peace treaty to end the Korean War and real security assurances. But that Pompeo and Bolton: they just want to strip away everything we got and screw us! Where’s the romance in that?

Whistles from audience.

Steve Bannon: A plea to go slow with Dictator Number Two. You can’t just grab ‘em by the nukes and do whatever you want with them. Okay, last question!

Donald Trump: Dictator Number Three, I hear people calling you a big reformer. But other people say you’re a tyrant at heart. Giving women the right to drive? Or cracking down on your Shia dissidents? I need to know where you stand, MbS, before I can really get into bed with you.

Mohammed bin Salman: I am fickle, just like you, Mr. President. But please don’t focus on what’s going on behind closed doors in my country. On the really important matters, you and I, we see eye to eye: we hate Iran, we love money, and we pretend that nebbish Jared Kushner is a lot smarter than he really is. We both want a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that empowers the former and basically eliminates any hope of statehood for the latter. We need the religious crazies on our side, but we need them on a leash. I’m no liberal. In fact I want more centralization of power — in my own hands! You’ve already given us a big gift by forcing countries to boycott Iranian oil, which drives up prices and our exports. Win win! That’s the art of the deal! You are my role model, Donald Trump!

Steve Bannon: Now that’s the language of love! What do you think, Mr. President?

Donald Trump: I think I’ve found my long-lost son.

Steve Bannon: Should we be expecting yet another lawsuit from a wronged woman?

Laughter.

Donald Trump: Oh, no. I was speaking metaphysically.

Steve: Bannon: Ah, I see. Don’t you mean —

Donald Trump: Right, metabolically.

Steve Bannon: Okaaay. Before we get to tonight’s Big Choice, I just want to make sure that our contestant is happy with our selection tonight. Our past contestants, including all your recent predecessors, have insisted that we include a democrat or two in the mix even if they bed down with their favorite dictator at the end of the show. Mr. President, should we have included Justin Trudeau? He’s quite a hunk.

Donald Trump: Very dishonest and weak.

Steve Bannon: Okay, how about Theresa May? You’ve got a hot date with her coming up.

Donald Trump: I like Boris Johnson.

Steve Bannon: Yes, but what about Theresa May?

Donald Trump: I like Boris Johnson.

Steve Bannon: I see. Then let’s chat about Angela Merkel. Germany is the most powerful country in Europe.

Donald Trump: She owes me a trillion dollars.

Steve Bannon: Don’t you mean that she owes the United States a trillion dollars?

Donald Trump: Oh, it will eventually end up in my pocket one way or another.

Steve Bannon: Finally, what about Japan’s Shinzo Abe?

Donald Trump: Lousy golfer. Fell into a bunker. Also owes me money.

Steve Bannon: That’s our due diligence part of the show. We’ve determined that our contestant clearly prefers dictators over democrats, and in today’s culture we must respect a person’s sexual preferences. So, Mr. President, which of these three strong, mysterious men will you take along with you on a dream weekend of guy talk, fast food, and strategizing world domination?

Donald Trump: Oh, this is a very difficult choice, Steve. I had a great time with Rocket Man but the follow-through has been disappointing so far. I’m looking forward to my first real date with Vladimir but honestly, the guy scares me a little bit. We could have a great relationship, but the breakup could be really rocky.

Steve Bannon: Which leaves…

Donald Trump: My man Mohammed! He’s going to be king one day. I’ve always wanted to be king. And four wives — that’s hot!

Applause.

Steve Bannon: A wise choice, Mr. President. And a bold one considering that MbS is a Muslim.

Donald Trump: See, some of my best friends are Muslims!

Steve Bannon: Now let me tell you about the fantastic package we have for you two besties. We’re sending you for a weekend extravaganza to….the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai! We know that our contestant feels most at home in his own properties. And Dubai is a favorite vacation retreat for Saudi royals. You’ll be spending three days and two nights in one of the Middle East’s premier luxury getaways. You’ll be able to play on the Championship-style, 18-hole golf course designed by world-renowned architect Gil Hanse, which provides a one-of-a-kind experience for golfers of all skill levels.

Donald Trump: You said, “one of the Middle East’s premier luxury getaways.” There you go again, Sloppy Steve. It is the premier luxury getaway. There can be only one number one.

Steve Bannon: And that just happens to be the tagline of our show! Dictators — there can be only one number one. We’ll see you next week with another chance to pair the world’s top tyrants with the democrats who can’t wait to take them home and coddle them. Until next time!

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John Feffer

John Feffer is the the editor of LobeLog and the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the author, most recently, of Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe's Broken Dreams (Zed Books). He is also the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands (Dispatch Books) and its soon-to-be-released sequel Frostlands. He is a former Open Society fellow, PanTech fellow, and Scoville fellow, and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and many other publications.

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