After two weeks of national conventions, the American presidential race remains headline news in Hungary. It really took center stage after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced his support for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. His announcement prompted the pro-government media to launch a propaganda campaign against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Trump. Today I will try to capture the general tone of the coverage by the Hungarian right-wing press.
As Dániel Deák, an analyst with the Nezőpont Intézet, correctly pointed out in Magyar Hírlap, “the natural political ally of the Hungarian right-wing government is the American Republican Party.” I would add that this is especially the case now that the Republicans have a candidate who is a populist demagogue, cut out of pretty much the same cloth as Viktor Orbán. The right-wing political commentator doesn’t understand why the liberals are surprised about Orbán’s announcement of his support for Trump. After all, the opposition parties as well as commentators critical of the Orbán government have been telling their readers that Hillary Clinton’s nomination “would be a tragedy for the Orbán government.”
The pro-government media is full of warmed-up stories about the injustices Orbán’s Hungary suffered at the hands of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, going all the way back to June 24, 2010 when she received Hungary’s new foreign minister, János Martonyi. “On her overly made-up face one could see immense conceit while all her words reflected the belief that she was representing the best of all possible worlds,” László Szőcs writes. In those days he was Népszabadság’s correspondent in Washington, but now he works for Magyar Idők. The same Szőcs in a later article recalled that in 2008 Barack Obama accused Clinton of a lack of integrity, calling her a person who would say anything in order to achieve her ultimate goal of becoming president of the United States. In addition, this aggressive woman dared to put political pressure on the Orbán government because of Hungary’s new constitution and law on the churches. And, if that wasn’t enough, she summarized her demands in twelve points at the end of 2011, charging that the Orbán government wasn’t democratic enough.
She was a total flop as secretary of state. “Her failures and her aggressive policies of ‘democracy export’ are in large part responsible for the distressing state in the countries of the Middle East and in many North African countries,” Dániel Deák charges.
In Magyar Hírlap Ottó Nagy (I don’t know who he is) practically accuses Hillary Clinton of “keeping secrets from her own country.” Or perhaps she had something even worse in mind, like stealing. “Let’s not forget about the lucrative Clinton Foundation. Did she perhaps fill her own pockets? After all, in her circles where George Soros shows up here and there, people tacitly understand one another.” Hillary Clinton’s sin, according to Nagy, has been playing “the feminist card and gender theory, following the thinking of the Democratic party.” If she succeeds Barack Obama as president then, “following the very American and very Democratic line, given the embrace of LGBTQ people, who knows who the next president will be.”
The Hungarian right, in addition to condemning Clinton’s policy of exporting democracy, also accuses her of undue pressure on the Orbán government on the issue of migration, which is clearly not the case. After all, she stepped down as Secretary of State in 2013. Deák, for example, brings up Coleen Bell’s speech at Corvinus University on October 29, 2015. But the fact is that Coleen Bell countless times declared that Hungary has the right to defend her borders and build the fence to keep refugees and migrants out, although she criticized the Hungarian government’s propaganda campaign. Let me quote what Bell had to say on this point. “Every sovereign nation has the right to protect its borders,” but, she added, “every nation, as a part of the international community, also has a fundamental obligation to help refugee populations seeking safety.” She said that words of intolerance and the xenophobic labeling of refugees as invaders and antagonists “have no role in our efforts to find a solution.”
From the point of view of the Hungarian right, the American pro-immigration policy will only intensify under the presidency of Hillary Clinton. Therefore, hoping for Trump’s victory is a normal reaction. Trump’s policies are a perfect fit with those of the Orbán administration. They are “clear and in line with Hungary’s national interest.”
Viktor Orbán singled out only three of Trump’s favorite themes in showing solidarity with him: he is against immigration, he believes that national security forces must be strengthened, and he contends that the West must end its export of democracy. To Orbán, these three policy positions are also of vital importance to Hungary. Or, to be more precise, to his Christian, national, illiberal Hungary.
Viktor Orbán may well be convinced that his own policies are in the nation’s interest, although many consider them to be a detriment to the country and its people. Is his far too close relationship with Vladimir Putin in the national interest? I doubt it. Is his undermining of the fragile structure of the European Union in Hungary’s interest? No. Is the systemic corruption he introduced that results in his and his friends’ enrichment good for Hungary? Is it in the interest of ordinary Hungarians? Definitely not.
“National interest” is one of those concepts that every scoundrel who manages to get into high office can appeal to. And usually national interest is equated with or reduced to the interest of that politician. It is not in the interest of Viktor Orbán personally to have Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States, but it’s hard to see how her presidency would be in any way detrimental to Hungary. And I fear that a Trump presidency, which Viktor Orbán welcomes, might be perilous not only for Hungary but for the whole western world.
July 30, 2016