Reading Viktor Orban’s Mind: ‘Damn It, I Could’ve Been President!’

Yet it was quite shocking in retrospect how little he spoke about Donald Trump, perhaps thinking that they were equals. The former president cannot have been amused; no one is meant to upstage him. Orban was his warm-up act, the one that few are supposed to even remember after the main act has carried off his two-hour show. After Trump spoke on the closing day of CPAC, most attendees could probably hardly recall Orban ever having spoken. He was yesterday's news.

So, on one hand, it is advisable not to overestimate the import of Viktor Orban's presence at CPAC, but equally it would also be wrong to underestimate the dangers it signals. This was no doubt an effort by Orban to take his populist-nationalism, his autocratic approach to power, to the heart of America. It was also a message to the EU: see, I am bigger than you think.

Former US President Donald J. Trump (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban posing at Trump's estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, USA, 02 August 2022. EPA-EFE/Vivien Cher Benko Workmanlike, far from spectacular

Orban's speech was unspectacular, workmanlike at best. He ticked many boxes, delivered all the elements that this particular audience, the extremist wing of the Republican Party, wanted to hear: the culture wars, anti-immigrant rants, the usefulness of "the wall", and attacks on the Democratic Party, Obama, gender and gay marriage.

Somewhat out of context, he criticised the eggheads in the EU and even talked about his dispute on double taxation with the US administration (the audience appeared to have no clue what he was talking about). And, as expected, he fiercely criticised the Biden administration. Low-hanging fruit, since any attack on the Biden administration is music to the ears of the CPAC...

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