Donald Trump didn't just meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un this week; the American president also offered gushing public praise for the repressive dictator. Even those who were inclined to approve of the Republican giving North Korea what it wanted, in exchange for nothing, found it difficult to defend Trump over-the-top affection for Kim.
What we didn't know was that the president wasn't done. Consider this exchange between Trump and Fox News' Bret Baier, aired last night:
BAIER: You know you call people sometimes 'killers.' [Kim] is a killer. I mean he's clearly executing people.TRUMP: He is a tough guy. Hey when you take over a country, tough country, with 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 you, I mean, that's one in 10, 000 that could do that. So he is a very smart guy. He is a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.BAIER: But he's still has done some really bad things.TRUMP: Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things.
Yes, we've reached the point in history at which the president of the United States is offering public excuses for a communist dictator's barbaric crimes.
If Trump's phrasing sounds at all familiar, just a month into his presidency, the Republican also sat down for a Fox News interview in which he was reminded that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is a killer." Trump responded at the time, "There are a lot of killers."
In English, we have a word to describe those who shrug off the crimes of their pals, making excuses for their misdeeds. They're called "apologists."
One could make a credible case that the United States sometimes has to deal, diplomatically, with countries that offend us. It's not ideal, and it involves some nose-holding, but part of being a leading superpower is engaging with friends and foes alike.
But talking to repressive regimes is one thing; defending and praising them is something else.
It was earlier this year that Trump declared in his State of the Union address, "No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea."
Evidently, the president has forgotten his own assessment.
Our ability to credibly lead may never be the same.