A handout photo made available by the Saudi Press Agency shows US President Donald J. Trump (C) being welcomed by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 May 2017. 
SAUDI PRESS AGENCY HANDOUT

Trump’s Commerce Sec marvels at lack of protests in Saudi Arabia

Updated
The first stop on Donald Trump’s overseas tour ended largely without incident. No one understands what was up with that orb, but in general, the American president did not cause any diplomatic crises during his brief trip to Saudi Arabia.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared on CNBC this morning to boast about how well it went. In fact, he offered proof that Trump’s first stop went off without a hitch:
“[The] thing that was fascinating to me, there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.”
At that point, the CNBC host interjected, reminding the secretary of Commerce that Saudis may have wanted to protest Trump, but local citizens aren’t allowed to express such criticisms publicly.

“In theory, that could be true,” Ross responded, “but boy there was certainly no sign of it.” The cabinet secretary then proceeded to brag some more about how smoothly everything went in the authoritarian country – including some “gigantic bushels of dates” he received as a gift from people he identified as Saudi security guards.

Someone might want to remind Ross that Saudi Arabia banned all protests and marches years ago. BBC News reported six years ago this month that a statement was read on state television that said “security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.”

It’s not that Ross was wrong – I’m quite certain Trump and his entourage were confronted with nothing but polite and welcoming locals – it’s that he apparently has no idea why he’s right. There wasn’t “a single hint of a protestor anywhere” because in Saudi Arabia, public dissent is quashed by force of law. What the president’s cabinet secretary was arguing, in effect, was that he didn’t see any Saudi who was willing to put his freedom or security at risk by holding up a critical placard, which is hardly something worth bragging about.

What’s more, let’s not forget that Ross isn’t some young rookie who’s unfamiliar with the basics of international affairs. He’s a 79-year-old former businessman with an extensive record with global industries.

In other words, the Commerce secretary has no excuse for interpreting the lack of protesters as evidence of public support.

Saudi Arabia

Trump's Commerce Sec marvels at lack of protests in Saudi Arabia

Updated