There’s an excellent case to be made for bestowing the “paper of record” title on The Washington Post. The New York Times essentially resigned from that position with its godawful election coverage (failure to vet homeboy Trump in favor of hysterical focus on Clinton’s emails), its subsequent refusal to engage in post-election introspection and its inexplicable decision to add a climate change denier to its op-ed page.
As valued commenter Baud frequently reminds us, “The New York Times is garbage.” But the WaPo has its problems too, and one was illustrated vividly in a self-proclaimed “smart analysis” piece published today. The article explores Trump’s chummy relationship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the recently extended invitation for Duterte to visit the White House, rightly questioning why a US president would warmly embrace an authoritarian who has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings.
The article notes that Priebus played the North Korea card to justify inviting the bloodthirsty Duterte to Washington (North Korea is becoming something of a go-to boogeyman to excuse all ills for Team Trump). Other officials cited the need to balance China’s influence in the Philippines. The analysis also quoted experts who correctly observed that Trump has a worrying affinity for strongmen. This is all perfectly relevant, and Trump’s admiration for authoritarians is both undeniable and worrisome.
But the piece was marred by the complete absence of the corruption angle. As Bloomberg reported back in November, Trump’s business partner in the Philippines was appointed special envoy to the US shortly after the election:
Century Properties Group Inc. of Manila, the company behind the $150 million tower that’s set to open next year, paid as much as $5 million to use the Trump name, in a licensing agreement that’s common for the president-elect. Trump has at least 10 similar licensing deals around the world, each of which might complicate his administration’s international diplomacy, according to ethics specialists.
But in Manila, there’s an extra connection: Century Properties’ chief executive and controlling stakeholder, Jose E.B. Antonio, was appointed last month to serve as a special government envoy to the U.S. for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to expel American troops from his country and ranted against President Barack Obama. Antonio says he sees no conflict between his public role and private partnership.
What a coincidence — Trump also doesn’t see any conflicts between his public role and private business dealings. Neither does his special presidential adviser/daughter, whose visage
is currently being was used to hawk Trump-branded luxury penthouses, jewelry collections, etc., in Manila (h/t: Kay):*
Assistant to POTUS models in an ad for POTUS's new Tower in Manila. President of Philippines just got WH invite. pic.twitter.com/zEDxTkGN17
— Peter Brack (@peterbrack) May 1, 2017
So yeah, let’s keep an eye on Trump’s affinity for authoritarians, speculate about how much the Trump-Duterte bromance might be connected to Duterte’s insulting behavior toward President Obama, etc. But let’s not forget to follow the money. The Washington Post, of all publications, shouldn’t need that reminder.
*Kay informs me in comments that’s a photo from 2012, so as far as we know, Trump’s Filipino business partner/the Philippines’ special envoy to the US isn’t using Trump’s daughter/special adviser to sell Trump-branded shit right now. But the business conflicts remain.