New Dictator Added To Trump’s Admiration List: Kim Jong Un
Donald Trump throughout his campaign and now extending into his presidency has very oddly publicly expressed admiration for dictators, autocrats, and despots. We may now add brutal North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un to Trump’s admiration list. In addition, in unprecedented fashion, Trump not only expressed a willingness to meet with Kim Jong Un, but stated that he would be “honored” to do so. This breaks with a long standing precedent since the Korean War armistice that sitting US presidents would not meet the dictator of the North Korean regime, as such a move would risk adding credibility and legitimacy to it leader both among his people and in the world. Below are some other complementary statements Trump has made about Kim Jong Un:
“You gotta give him credit.”
“How many young guys — he was, like, 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”
Trumps sentiments toward the North Korean leader has drawn sharp criticism from lawmakers from both sides of the isle. In an interview with self identified conservative political commentator Joe Scarborough, republican Senator John McCain stated that during this current period where the threat to global democracy has not been this so fragile in decades, such statements in support and recognition of brutal, authoritarian dictators by a sitting US president adds to that threat. He went on to make clear that just as President Ronald Reagan did in the height of the Cold War, the US needs to be the unequivocal standard bearer of democracy in the world and not condone nor accept tyranny.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham has also stated that he does “not get” Trump’s North Korea comments, nor does he understand why Trump spoke fondly of his “friendly conversation” and invitation to the White House with Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte who has overseen 7000 extrajudicial killings as Philippines president (who has also boasted that as mayor of the Philippines city of Davao before he became president, death squads killed 1,700 suspected criminals and, “I used to do it personally.”)
Below are other notable dictators and/or autocrats that Trump has spoken kindly of either on the campaign trail, as president, or both:
Bashar al-Assad Syria
Trump: “I think in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A and our president is not doing so well,” Trump said of al-Assad during an interview with Fox News in September.
Trump: “We would be so much better off if Gaddafi were in charge right now. If these politicians went to the beach and didn’t do a thing and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gadafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we’d be — at least they killed terrorists, all right?”
Trump: “We shouldn’t have been there. We shouldn’t have destabilized Saddam Hussein, right. He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over.”
Trump: (on“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” (on not responding to sanctions Obama imposed in response to election meddling)
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Trump: (in response to the vote that cemented his autocratic rule over the country and, in the view of many experts, will erode Turkey’s democratic institutions) Trump called to offer congratulations.
Big questions remain as to why Trump continues to (at least publicly) praise dictators and autocrats. Some experts believe that Trump views them in the place where he would like to be, as unquestioned authoritarian who does not have the congress and judiciary in the way of his agenda, nor an independent free press to hold him to account. Others speculate that Trump is simply putting aside American values and interests in support of his business interests abroad which include ventures in Philippines, Turkey, and Russia.