As a rule, when Donald Trump talks about the political preferences of foreign leaders, the incumbent American president concedes he’s unpopular, though he insists that’s a good thing. International figures, the Republican argues, don’t like him because he’s so much tougher than his predecessors.
Yesterday, however, Trump apparently forgot his usual line, and instead pushed the opposite message.
“The only thing I can tell you for sure President Xi from China, President Putin from Russia, Kim Jong-un [from] North Korea, and I could name 40 others — they’re sharp as a tack, they don’t want to deal with Sleepy Joe.”
Perhaps he hasn’t thought this through. Why would an American president boast at a campaign rally that authoritarian adversaries prefer him to his opponent?
New York‘s Jon Chait explained soon after, “Here is a case where Trump has forgotten the difference between the way he thinks about various dictators and the way his audience does. Trump regards Xi, Putin, and Kim with admiration. He envies their dictatorial powers, and glories in the flattery they lavish on him. Trump has already won the open endorsement of many of the right-wing authoritarian nationalists with whom [he] is increasingly allied: Bolsonaro, Orban, Duterte, and Putin. In Trump’s mind, the idea that they prefer him over Biden is a strong argument for his own reelection.”
Today in Orlando, former President Barack Obama took full advantage of his successor’s strange perspective.
“Our current president, he whines that ’60 Minutes’ is too tough. You think he’s going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully. Just yesterday, he said that Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea want him to win. We know! We know because you’ve been giving them whatever they want for the last four years! Of course they want you to win! That’s not a good thing. You shouldn’t brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they’d be better off with you in office. Of course they do. What does that say about you? Think about that. Why are you bragging about that? C’mon. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Well, sure, when you put it that way, it suggests Trump’s unfortunate boasts probably weren’t a good idea.