After gushing during his campaign about the strong leadership qualities of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s new man of the hour appears to be North Korean President Kim Jong Un — a man CNN’s Jake Tapper reminded the president on Monday is a “murderer.”
“Equating brutality and despotism with leadership is not an American value,” Tapper said on “The Lead.”
Tapper was responding to Trump’s recent praise of the Pyongyang dictator, whom the president called a “pretty smart cookie” and a leader he would be “honored” to meet. Trump said Kim “was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over ... when his father died” (in a role he inherited from his dictator dad, Kim Jong Il). “A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it,” Trump said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So, obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”
Tapper shot back on his program: “Kim Jong Un had his uncle murdered. That doesn’t make Kim Jong Un a smart cookie — that makes him a murderer.” (Kim’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam died after being poisoned in the middle of a Malaysian airport in February.)
Trump’s puzzling comments about the North Korean strongman are part of a pattern of praise for “brutal dictators and despots,” said Tapper, who pointed out that Trump invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House after a “very friendly” phone conversation (Duterte has since said he might be too busy to come). Duterte is accused of ordering the extrajudicial killings of thousands of Filipinos as part of his war on drugs and has boasted that he has personally participated in some of the murders.
Trump has also praised the Chinese for the bloody 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters and congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for winning a possibly rigged referendum last month that expanded his powers.
“This is all of a piece,” Tapper said, also pointing to Trump’s positive words about Putin, the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. At the same time, Trump aims to change Senate filibuster and libel laws, which Tapper said “protect the nation from any theoretical, would-be dictator.”