Faced With Evil, Trump Is A Coward And A Disgrace

Donald Trump is a coward and an apologist for evil around the world.

If there’s one notable thing about President Trump and his foreign policy as it has developed over the past twenty-two months is the extent to which he has become stunningly obsequious to authoritarian rulers while at the same time seemingly doing everything possible to insult and alienate American allies in Europe as well as here in North America with respect to Mexico and Canada, something I’ve noted herehere, and here, That tendency came into full display last night during the President’s interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes,” as well as comments he made today regarding the apparent murder of Washington Post columnist, Saudi dissident, and American Permanent Resident Jamal Khashoggi.

At one point during the course of the interview, for example, Trump dismissed the fact that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has brutally murdered thousands of people during the short time he has been in charge of the DPRK and defended his asserted “love” for the man:

President Trump in an interview aired late Sunday doubled down on his praise for Kim Jong Un and claim that he “fell in love” with the dictator, indicating he’s willing to overlook the North Korean leader’s human rights record in order to accomplish his goals on the Korean peninsula.

Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” rattled off the human rights violations Kim is accused of, including that he has starved his own people, and overseen gulags, public executions and the assassination of his half-brother.

“I know all these things. I mean, I’m not a baby,” Trump responded.

“Look … I get along with him, OK?” Trump added.

The president went on to suggest his statement at a rally last month that he “loves” Kim was “just a figure of speech,” but did not walk it back or refute it when pressed by Stahl.

“Let it be whatever it is to get the job done,” Trump said.

“I get along with him really well,” the president continued. “I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats.”

Trump’s rhetoric toward Kim has transformed over the last year as the two countries negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The president spent months mocking Kim as “little Rocket Man” and exchanging threats with the North Korea leader.

The president’s rhetoric softened ahead of a June summit between the two men, and in the aftermath of their meeting in Singapore, Trump has been effusive in his praise of the dictator.

(…)

At a West Virginia rally last month, Trump recounted the shift in relations between the two men.

“I was really being tough and so was he,” the president said. “And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters.”

Here’s a video of the exchange involving the accusations against Kim:

Moving on, Trump was similarly dismissive when it came to the allegations against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has murdered dissidents and journalists and most recently was linked with the attempted assassination of a former Soviet spy currently living in exile in the United Kingdom:

President Trump said he believes that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin “probably” has been involved in assassinations and poisonings, but he appeared to dismiss the gravity of those actions, noting that they have not taken place in the United States.

“Probably he is, yeah. Probably,” Trump told CBS’s Lesley Stahl when asked during an interview on “60 Minutes” whether he thinks Putin is involved “in assassinations, in poisonings.”

“But I rely on them; it’s not in our country,” Trump added.

A long line of Russian dissidents, journalists and others critical of Putin have been poisoned or died under mysterious circumstances; in one of the most recent cases, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter were poisoned in Britain, allegedly by Russian operatives. Russia denies any involvement in the attack.

Trump acknowledged that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign, but he sought to blame other countries, as well.

“They meddled. But I think China meddled, too,” he said.

He later ridiculed the notion that his campaign would seek help from Russia.

“Do you really think I’d call Russia to help me with an election? Give me a break,” Trump said. “They wouldn’t be able to help me at all. Call Russia. It’s so ridiculous.”

Finally, as he was preparing to travel to Florida and George to view the damage caused by Hurricane Michael, the President made some of his first comments about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and appeared to state that he is prepared to accept the absurd denials of the Saudi government regarding their involvement in the matter:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Monday that he spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia and that the ruler denied any knowledge of what happened to a missing Saudi dissident journalist. After the call, Mr. Trump said it was possible that “rogue killers” were behind the disappearance of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Trump’s comments, in a morning Twitter post and later in brief remarks to reporters, come as the Saudis have given Turkish authorities permission to search the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, where local officials believe Mr. Khashoggi, was killed and dismembered earlier this month.

The president said the secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was traveling to Saudi Arabia later Monday morning to meet with King Salman.

Mr. Trump said his conversation with King Salman lasted about 20 minutes, and the king “firmly denied any knowledge of it.”

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows,” Mr. Trump said.

In introducing the possibility that another party could have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, the president opened a window for King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to stand by their denials.

If the Saudi leaders are found to be behind what happened to Mr. Khashoggi, Mr. Trump would probably face more pressure from Congress and other countries to respond.

Mr. Trump acknowledged the international focus on Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and Turkish reports that he was dismembered in his conversation with King Salman. Mr. Trump said he told the king, “The world is watching. The world is talking, and this is very important to get to the bottom of it.”

The Saudi state news service reported a slightly different take on the conversation. In it, according to the report, Mr. Trump praised the cooperation between the Saudis and Turkish officials as they investigate Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Mr. Trump said his conversation with King Salman lasted about 20 minutes, and the king “firmly denied any knowledge of it.”

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows,” Mr. Trump said.

In introducing the possibility that another party could have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, the president opened a window for King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to stand by their denials.

If the Saudi leaders are found to be behind what happened to Mr. Khashoggi, Mr. Trump would probably face more pressure from Congress and other countries to respond.

Mr. Trump acknowledged the international focus on Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and Turkish reports that he was dismembered in his conversation with King Salman. Mr. Trump said he told the king, “The world is watching. The world is talking, and this is very important to get to the bottom of it.”

The Saudi state news service reported a slightly different take on the conversation. In it, according to the report, Mr. Trump praised the cooperation between the Saudis and Turkish officials as they investigate Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

(…)

On Sunday, in an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS, Mr. Trump said that even as the Saudis deny involvement in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, it was still possible that they were responsible.

Mr. Trump said that because Mr. Khashoggi is a journalist, the case was even more serious.

“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case,” Mr. Trump told CBS. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment.”

This is all typical for the this President, of course. While he has, as I’ve stated before, spared no words in attacking American allies and long-time loyal friends like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, this President has specifically avoided any and all opportunities to criticize the leaders of authoritarian regimes. Instead, he has repeatedly expressed admiration for dictators such as President al-Sisi in Egypt, President Duetere in The Philippines, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and, of course, Vladimir Putin. Over the summer this was on full display over the course of two months during which he attacked American allies at the G-7 summit, during the NATO summit in Brussels, and then during a visit to the United Kingdom. Earlier in the year, of course, Trump had further alienated the United States from its allies with his decision to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran, a decision that was quite simply not justified by the available facts.

Each of these events, of course, was followed by a summit with two of the most ruthless dictators on the planet during which the President was obsequious in his praise and deference. At the Singapore Summit with Kim Jong Un, for example, Trump not only backed away from his fiery rhetoric of a year ago but was openly friendly with Kim, applauding him for supposed progress made that in reality amounted to nothing, and even saluting one of Kim’s top Generals in what can only be called one of the most embarrassing diplomatic incidents since President George H.W.Bush vomited in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister, and in that case Bush at least had the excuse of being ill. A month later, during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was equally obsequious and appeared to accept the denials made by the Russian President regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election notwithstanding the fact that all of America’s top intelligence agencies, and the Department of Justice, have conclusively shown that such interference did in fact occur. It was, perhaps, the worst performance of an American President on the international stage since the end of World War Two.

In the past, the President of the United States has at least managed to pay lip service to the idea that regimes that violate human rights should not be embraced, and that our leaders are not our friends. During the Cold War, for example, it was the strong words of Presidents from Kennedy to Reagan that gave people in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union hope that they had not been forgotten by the world. Additionally, human rights issues ranging from the treatment of dissidents to the status of Jews in the former Soviet Union were often at the top of the agenda at summit meetings and often led to strong condemnation when necessary. One of the most notable examples of that, of course, came in the wake of the incident in which Soviet fighter jets shot a South Korean passenger jet out of the skies, killing everyone on board. Other incidents included the inspiring speeches that President Kennedy and President Reagan gave during their respective trips to Berlin. On many occasions, of course, the United States has looked the other way when one of our allies committed human rights violations, but on the whole, we have stood as a moral beacon to the world and our leaders have been willing to condemn dictators when the cross the line.

That’s no longer the case with this President. Instead of condemning and ostracizing dictators who mistreat their citizens, we have a President who condemns and ostracizes the leaders of our most important democratic allies while trashing alliances such as NATO and the G-7 that have helped to spread shared values throughout the world. Instead of speaking out when human rights are violated, we have a President who clearly favors close relationships with men who have authorized the kidnapping and murder of people who have done nothing more than dissent from the leadership of their country and dream of a day when their own countries might recognize the rights that we have come to take for granted. Instead of a President who hails the values that this country stands for, we have a President who repeatedly attacks the free press and undermines the Rule of Law while simultaneously sending a message to the dictators of the world that the new United States will remain silent when they violate the rights of their citizens. Instead of Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill that sends a message of freedom and liberty around the world, we have Donald Trump’s Fortress America that basically tells the oppressed people of the world that the United States will do nothing, not even offer words of condemnation, when they are victimized by the men claiming to be their leaders. Over the course of just twenty-odd months, this President has destroyed everything this country was supposed to stand for and damaged our reputation on the world stage. And he’s not done.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, North Korea, Politicians, Russia, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    As Jake Tapper pointed out in an interesting piece for CNN, Trump always takes the side of people he likes and with whom he wants to get along well. Those are mostly authoritarians, since those are the types he admires and wants to emulate.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Agree with everything you’ve said. But shouldn’t we also mention that Trump has personally gotten a lot of money from Saudi Arabia and Russia? I’d love to know if Kim has found a way to give him money on top of flattery, or maybe he’s getting away with promises of money later.

    We’re not talking psychological quirks and weakness, we’re talking corruption on a massive scale.

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  3. Kathy says:

    All bullies are cowards.

    In addition, El Dennison is also a crybaby.

    The next step for Trump now is to unleash character assassination on the memory of Khashoggi.

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  4. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Funny, but Trump addressed that very subject just an hour ago on Twitter. Here’s what he wrote: “For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!

  5. Bill B says:

    “The next step for Trump now is to unleash character assassination on the memory of Khashoggi.”

    That would not be difficult. The guy was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He criticized Saudi Arabia because he was an Islamist and decried the Saudi diplomatic overtures with Israel.

    Saudi Arabia is a brutal regime that probably took out a critic but don’t whitewash Khashoggi.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Bill B:

    Leon Trotsky was a committed Bolshevik who had a big role in the October Revolution and the civil war that followed (he founded the Red Army). He also negotiated peace with Germany, and was an advocate of exporting Communist revolution all over the world.

    Upon losing a power struggle with Stalin to succeed Lenin, he was forced into exile. He wound up in Mexico, where he befriended the artist couple of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (also committed socialists). Eventually he was murdered by a Spanish-born Soviet agent on Stalin’s orders.

    And still the extrajudicial, extraterritorial execution ordered by Stalin amounted to nothing more than murder, and it was wrong morally and legally.

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  7. KM says:

    @Bill B:
    So?

    The state killing terrible people isn’t acceptable just because they’re asshats. A nation doesn’t get to kill it’s people just because it’s current leader doesn’t like what they’re saying. Doesn’t matter if they’re saints or sinners – it’s still extra-judicial murder. If we start putting conditionals on it, it’s going to lead to very, very bad place nobody wants to be in.

    Trump and Co starting to talk shit about the victim in an attempt to devaluate his murder or the Saudi’s culpability is craven.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:
    Gawd that man is a lying sack of it. However, for him,

    For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE.NEWS (of which there is plenty)!

    is oddly carefully worded. I wonder if the supposedly liberal MSM will note no one’s accused him of financial interests IN those countries.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    For more than two years now I’ve been saying Trump is a psychopath – or a malignant narcissist if you prefer. He is incapable of caring about evil. He is incapable of caring about anyone but himself. There is no core of decency anywhere in the man.

    Thankfully he’s also stupid, lazy and weak. We’d be in even bigger trouble if he wasn’t so pathetic.

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  10. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08:

    Greg Miller of the Washington Post:

    A very carefully worded and misleading statement. Large sums of Saudi (and Russian) money has flowed into Trump properties for years. And he and his sons have said so. Bragged about it even.

    https://twitter.com/gregpmiller/status/1052194671106158592

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey: Thank you. That’s at least one, even if it’s from Khashoggi’s paper.

  12. Tim says:

    Well Doug, you’ve finally done it, gone completely to the dark side. It will be the last time I ever read ANYTHING you write.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tim:
    Yeah, good idea: reject anything that doesn’t fit your pre-established intellectual prejudices. We wouldn’t want you to be contaminated by differing opinions. Snap that brain shut and lock it down.

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  14. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: @Mikey:

    Yeah, I noticed that right away. I don’t think he himself wrote the first sentence of that tweet. The rest of it is all him, though.

    The Saudis helped pull him out of personal bankruptcy in 1991. He started laundering Russian money through his casino a year or so later.

  15. Gustopher says:

    He sucks up to strongmen because he wishes he was strong — how is that hard to understand?

    He’s been given one of the most powerful positions on Earth, and he can’t manage to build a wall. Or repeal ObamaCare. He’s a weakling, and when he sees people who actually can get things done — even horrible things — he gravitated towards them.

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  16. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think we all understand that Trump’s a blustering weakling with a slobbering devotion to homicidal dictators. And I think we all understand that his followers share his sentiments. Remember the two guys at one of his rallies who wore t-shirts that read I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN THAN A DEMOCRAT? Of course they, like Trump, love Putin. He’s a “Christian” strongman who hates gays. What could be better?

  17. Lynn says:

    @Tim: “It will be the last time I ever read ANYTHING you write.”

    So no more comments from you then?

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  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Donna Simmons:

    How will your react when Trump fully opens relations with Cuba, alienates our ally Israel, and signs a Grand Deal with Iran?

    I would welcome signs of common sense, that’s how I’d react.

    It’s also interesting that we haven’t seen massive outcry from the leaders of Europe about this. Most of the criticism there seems to be coming from opposition parties. There’s been condemnation, but apparently no desire to damage trade with Saudi Arabia from European leaders.

    The cowardice of others does not excuse your Cult Leader. But I take some pleasure from the fact that you are justifying your world-bestriding colossus by equating him with the leaders of Italy and Belgium.

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  19. Teve says:

    Whole lotta new-named trolls around here last few days.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Whole lotta new-named trolls around here last few days.

    Of course…that’s what happens when old trolls get banned…

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  21. NW Steve says:

    @Bill B: @Bill B: @Bill B:

    Saudi Arabia is a brutal regime that probably took out a critic but don’t whitewash Khashoggi.

    I’ll raise the same question with you that I raised with Eric Florak in another thread.

    Are you OK with snuffing of people that you don’t much like?

    I’m not actually expecting an answer, so surprise me.

  22. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    But I take some pleasure from the fact that you are justifying your world-bestriding colossus by equating him with the leaders of Italy and Belgium.

    Not to mention the incidental fact that Khashoggi was a US resident, not one of Italy or Belgium.

  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Donna Simmons: I guess your comments just go to show that you see what you’re looking for.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    Everyone who disagrees with you is, I guess, a troll.

    No…but people who have been banned and come back using different aliases certainly are trolls…

    And, it sure sounds as if Trump is offering a measured response to this whole thing…

    Accepting whatever ridiculous stories that the Saudis tell him and talking about “rogue killers” is definitely not a “measured response”…

  25. MarkedMan says:

    There is a huge chasm between “embrace of a brutal dictator” (see Trump and Khashoggi, Duterte, Baby Kim, Putin, etc) and “RealPolitik” wherein one deals realistically with existing regimes while simultaneously trying to promote freedom and rule of law all over the world.

    Trump is bought and paid for by Khashoggi and Putin. Duterte and Baby Kim are just fan crushes.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That’s no longer the case with this President. Instead of condemning and ostracizing dictators who mistreat their citizens, we have a President who condemns and ostracizes the leaders of our most important democratic allies while trashing alliances such as NATO and the G-7 that have helped to spread shared values throughout the world. Instead of speaking out when human rights are violated, we have a President who clearly favors close relationships with men who have authorized the kidnapping and murder of people who have done nothing more than dissent from the leadership of their country and dream of a day when their own countries might recognize the rights that we have come to take for granted. Instead of a President who hails the values that this country stands for, we have a President who repeatedly attacks the free press and undermines the Rule of Law while simultaneously sending a message to the dictators of the world that the new United States will remain silent when they violate the rights of their citizens.

    And 45-47% of Americans will vote for him again in 2020.

    Over the course of just twenty-odd months, this President has destroyed everything this country was supposed to stand for and damaged our reputation on the world stage. And he’s not done.

    They have damaged everything this country was supposed to stand for and they aren’t done yet.

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Trump is bought and paid for by Khashoggi and Putin.

    I think you mean MbS and Putin.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Donna Simmons:
    There are times and places when we have no choice but to do business with dictators. Stalin during WW2 comes to mind. The house of Saud was such a case, but it is no longer.

    As for alienating allies, are you nuts? Obama ‘alienated’ Israel, population 8.5 million.

    Trump has thus far alienated Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, the UK, as well as the rest of NATO – call it 500,000,000 population, total. And of course even Canada could buy Israel and have plenty of cash left over.

    Our standing in the world has plummeted. Like a rock. In fact, the only people left who like Trump are dictators: L’il Kim, Duterte, Erdogan, MBS and of course, his master, Putin. The reality is that the ONLY countries that like Trump are murderous dictatorships.

    You need to learn a great deal more about international relations than you evidently know. It’s not as easy as regurgitating whatever talking point you heard from Hannity and Tucker. Because the argument you advanced is actually devastating to your own side.

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  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Donna Simmons:
    Ah, the Bung is back under an alias, but still addicted to moving goal posts and dishonesty.

  30. Kathy says:

    @Donna Simmons:

    Hey, 1914 called. it wants you back.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    Everyone but you must be a Russian Bot.

    So funny, Trump Fluffer…by the way, if you are a Russian Bot, the Russians are really not getting their money’s worth…