What Trump is achieving by opening the White House doors to Sisi is not ushering in a new policy but rather clarifying and illuminating a very old one. This Trumpian effect — unmasking in all its naked ugliness what D.C. mavens prefer to keep hidden — is visible in multiple other areas.
Exactly the same thing happened last week when Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, announced that the U.S. would no longer condition transfers of arms to the regime in Bahrain on human rights improvements. The outrage over this announcement utterly masked the fact that Obama continued to lavish the same Bahraini regime with all sorts of weapons and other forms of support even as it imprisoned dissidents and violently crushed protests. Just compare the reaction of one Obama speechwriter to Tillerson’s announcement to the actual reality of his boss’s conduct.
There are, of course, instances where Trump is imposing genuinely new destructive policies, such as his deportation crackdown, increased civilian massacres, and the rollback of vital regulations. But in the case of Egypt and Bahrain, the only new aspect of Trump’s conduct is that it’s more candid and revealing: rather than deceitfully feign concern for human rights while arming and propping up the world’s worst tyrants — as Obama and his predecessors did — Trump is dispensing with the pretense. The reason so many D.C. mavens like Diehl are so upset with Trump isn’t because they hate his policies but rather despise his inability and/or unwillingness to prettify what the U.S. does in the world.