They surround themselves with flunkies and cronies. All of whom are just that little bit more respectable, seemingly reasonable, than they are, polite, well-mannered, even mild-mannered sorts. Senators, perhaps, Congressmen, politicians, pundits of all kinds.
They seem to be, sometimes, at odds with the authoritarian.
But these men are what they are: flunkies. The purpose of a rank of such men — and sometimes women, but usually men — is complex and subtle. To provide cover, to stall, to excuse, and to justify. If you look closely, no matter how much they might claim to check him, to balance him — they never do.
And so a dynamic is born that those in authoritarian nations know all too well.