Trump’s Commerce Secretary Just Humiliated Himself In Saudi Arabia

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was among those who accompanied President Trump to Saudi Arabia over the weekend, where he found it “fascinating” that there were no protests, which he said was evidence that there was a genuinely “good mood” about the American’s visit: “Not one guy with a placard.”

Ross provided his analysis of the mood in Saudi Arabia on CNBC this morning on the show Squawk Box. Host Becky Quick cut him off to note that Saudi Arabia does not allow protests as we do in America. 

“In theory,” replied Ross blithely, “that could be true. But, boy, there was certainly no sign of it. There wasn’t a single effort of any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood.”

In theory? Actually, protesting in the strict religious fundamentalist state can carry long prison terms and in some cases, there have been executions of people who spoke out at a protest, on TV or in media interviews. 

Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive police states in the world, Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Center for Mideast Policy, told CNBC: “Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which forbids any political protest or any manifestation of dissent. It is also a police state that beheads opponents.”

“Six years ago,” the Washington Post reports, “in the midst of the popular uprisings in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, the Saudi Council of Senior Religious Scholars issued a decree essentially banning public protests in the country.”

“The following February,” continues The Post, “a 17-year-old named Ali al-Nimr was arrested for participating in an anti-government protest. Two years later, he was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion and remains on death row.”

Ross’s comments set off a storm of protest on Twitter, including one by a respected and honored author and professor:

Even after being told that the Saudi’s did not allow protests, Ross insisted it was a wonderful reception that showed the people loved Trump and the Americans. His proof?

“At the end of the trip,” he said, “as I was getting back on the plane, the security guards from the Saudi side who’d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op. And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from the heart gesture and it really touched me.”

We can agree that Ross may well be touched – in the head. This is not the first time has made an embarrassing reference to Trump and his first involvement in government after a career on Wall Street and as a buyer of distressed properties.

On May 1, speaking at a conference in Los Angeles the day after Trump had suddenly sent 59 missiles to attack an airport in Syria where he believed planes carrying poison gas had been launched from, made a “joke” about what had happened.

“Just as dessert was being served,” Ross said at the Milken Institute Global Conference, “the president explained to [Chinese President} Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria.”

“It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment,” added Ross. “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.”

Ross’s distaste for protests, and perhaps his love of dates, is something he shares with Trump, an authoritarian who has discussed passing laws to limit protest, tamper dissent and curb the freedom of the press – all of which Ross would no doubt support.


What do you think?