President Obama has listed Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan as one of the five world leaders with whom he has the closest personal ties. The basis for this bonding is not clear.
As Michael Rubin points out, on a policy level Erdoğan has worked to undercut sanctions against Iran and has embraced groups like Hamas and Hezbollah designated by the U.S. government as terrorists. On a personal level, he is bitterly anti-Israel and probably anti-Semitic. And his views about women — e.g., “I don’t believe in equality between men and women” — are inconsistent with those Obama professes to hold.
I don’t assume a connection between any of these stances and Obama’s high regard for Erdoğan. But one might have hoped that they would preclude such regard.
Now, it looks like Erdoğan is, on top of everything else, a racist. Rubin reports:
Criticizing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the center-left and secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP), Erdoğan declared, “Kılıçdaroğlu is striving every bit he can to raise himself from the level of a black person to the level of a white man.” The Turkish word—Zenci—Erdoğan used is often used in a derogatory way.
Maybe there’s a non-racist explanation for this comment. If I were Obama, I’d be asking my pal Erdoğan for one.