Donald Trump has already made major concessions to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in exchange for nothing, and also offered public praise for the brutal dictator. How can the American president make matters worse?
Perhaps by expressing some admiration for the authoritarian’s governing style.
Trump was asked this morning whether Kim might someday visit the White House. The Republican said it “could happen,” before adding:
“Hey, he’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head. Don’t let anyone think any different. [Kim] speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
In context, “my people” appeared to refer to White House staff, not Americans in general, though that’s hardly reassuring. What Trump neglected to mention is that Kim’s “people” sit up at attention when he speaks because they realize that failure to do so may lead to their execution.
The president’s comments coincided with a Washington Post report on the events surrounding this week’s summit in Singapore. Trump was reportedly impressed with North Korea’s state-run television news, and was struck by “how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim.” He added “that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television.”
Taken in isolation, one might be tempted to shrug off ridiculous rhetoric like this, but there’s a broader pattern of concern. Trump has repeatedly expressed public admiration for dictators, not despite their authoritarian practices, but because of them.
Those concerns are more acute this morning.
* Postscript: Asked soon after about his praise for Kim’s governing style, Trump told reporters, “I’m kidding. You don’t understand sarcasm.” After having seen the video, I can only assume the president has no idea what the word “sarcasm” means.