Many weeks — every week? — in the age of Trump are depressing. This last one has been sickening.
That is strong language for a moment that President Trump has declared a triumph, with his historic meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The problem is not the fact of the meeting itself. Diplomacy — even Trump’s brand of slapdash, what-me-prepare diplomacy — is better than the warmongering alternative, and the president deserves credit for putting out even a fire partly of his own creation.
Trump’s consistent, unnecessary, escalating praise for Kim merits the word “sickening.” Diplomacy may entail saying nice things to bad people for good ends, but Trump’s language about Kim represents a nauseating betrayal of American values — and a telling exposure of Trump’s own.
“Hey, he’s a tough guy,” Trump told Fox News’s Bret Baier. “When you take over a country — a tough country, tough people — and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s 1 in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator.”
Baier persisted: “But he’s still done some really bad things.”
Trump: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
Shades of Trump’s moral equivocating on Russian President Vladimir Putin ( “There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers,” Trump told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly last year. “What, you think our country is so innocent?”), but so much worse. Consider Trump’s own words less than five months ago: “No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.”
Contrast Trump’s new fawning, in person and afterward, with President Barack Obama’s 2015 encounter with Cuban President Raúl Castro. Agree or not with Obama’s outreach to Cuba, fault him for not doing enough to insist on improvements on human rights — at least he brought the subject up, to Castro’s face. At least he didn’t praise Castro’s toughness.
Having left the summit with the gauziest of assurances about denuclearization, Trump assured us,