Some observers referred to it as the sort of rant a dictator would give, but here I have some expertise and I must disagree. Trump’s rhetoric is often that of a strongman, full of boasting and self-reverence. On Thursday, he was just pathetic, a hot-air balloon punctured by the sharp point of reality. It was the speech not of a dictator or a president, but of a weak man trying to pull himself out of self-pity by seeing how much damage he can do so that he doesn’t suffer alone.

It was, however, the sort of speech that any real dictator would love. The president of the United States, attacking the foundation of the greatest democracy in the world from behind the presidential seal. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have scripted it better.

Leaders like Putin whose power depends on depriving their citizens of a voice are always keen to portray democracy as little more than chaos — something their subjects don’t have to worry about. They go to bed every night knowing exactly who is going to be in charge in the morning, and every morning, no matter how they feel about it.