Donald Trump, I noted, often does not speak or act like other statesmen. That makes some people, including some broadly speaking pro-Trump friends, uneasy. In particular, they do not like it when Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and says nice things about him. They get nervous when he meets with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and pauses for smiling photo-ops. They are horrified when he praises Chinese President Xi even as the Mao wannabe has his troops massing on the Hong Kong border.
I admit that some of Donald Trump’s rhetorical valentines make me raise an eyebrow. I think that some of his rhetoric here, as elsewhere, is over the top.
But I also think, as Trump himself put it, that it would be a good thing, not a bad thing for us to have good relations with Russia. I think it is good that he chats up the chubby dictator from North Korea even as he maintains a punishing regime of sanctions on the hermit empire. I think it is a good strategy to dispense some honeyed words in President Xi’s direction, to tell the world what an impressive leader he is, while imposing billions in tariffs in order to encourage the Chinese to play fair.
Will it work? I don’t know. But I do know that Trump, whatever he has said, has acted with much greater forcefulness and clarity of purpose than his immediate predecessors. He may meet Kim Jong-un for a Polaroid and a handshake at Panmunjom along the DMZ. But he softened the sanctions against the Norks not one iota.