Stuck like glue to my guy
Love isn't always for keeps with Donald Trump, judging by the roster of his ex-wives, not to mention once-favored Cabinet officials who have gotten the hate-tweet treatment since their bad breakups with the president.
But Trump's ardor seems enduring and unshakable for strongmen and dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. To aides and allies who have something bad to say about them, beware — he doesn't want to hear it. You'll worry that he might even hold it against you.
Such was the case during Trump's news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the subject of North Korea's recent launches of short-range missiles. Trump rejected the judgment of both Abe and his own national security adviser, John Bolton, that Kim violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Asked if he was bothered by the missile tests, Trump said: “No, I’m not. I am personally not.” He went on: "My people think it could have been a violation ... I view it differently. I view it as a man — perhaps he wants to get attention and perhaps not. Who knows?”
Since the president declared that he and the head of North Korea's brutal regime "fell in love," he doesn't talk about the prison camps and the executions of officials who displeased Kim. In March, Trump said he believed Kim was blameless for the brutal treatment of an imprisoned American student, Otto Warmbier, who came home comatose and dying. "He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word," Trump said.
Trump's hosts arranged for a reminder Monday of the North Korean regime's cruelty. He met with family members of Japanese citizens who were abducted to train North Korean spies in the 1960s and 1970s and remain unaccounted for. North Korea denies any are still held.
Trump said he would work with Abe to help. Some of the relatives worried about Trump getting duped by Kim. Takuya Yokota said he told the president: “I know he lied to you as he’s lied to Japan by saying the abduction issue’s resolved."
Trump's dismissal of Bolton's North Korea concerns raises more questions about the national security adviser's standing in the administration.
The president already was upset with Bolton's aggressive, but so far unsuccessful, maneuvers to force out Venezuela's socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro.
Though Trump has been talking tough on Iran, he's reported to be leery about getting pushed into an actual war to force a regime change, as Bolton has long advocated. “We’re not looking for regime change. I want to make that clear," Trump said Monday. “We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”
Trump's wariness of Bolton on Venezuela and Iran is a relief to Bolton's critics. But when it comes to skepticism about North Korea, Bolton is no outlier.
North Korea's foreign ministry Monday denounced Bolton as a “war monger” and “defective human product."
Trump: Kim's right again
Trump said it in a tweet, and he said it again at the news conference with Japan's prime minister: Kim is right to call Joe Biden names.
Trump was asked: "Does it give you pause at all to be appearing to side with a brutal dictator instead of with a fellow American, the former vice president, Joe Biden?"
He replied, "Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a 'low-IQ individual.' He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that."
Later on, Trump said, "I don't take sides as to who I'm in favor of and who I'm not, but I can tell you Joe Biden was a disaster with his administration with President Obama."
Trump, joined by first lady Melania, became the first world leader to meet Japan's Emperor Naruhito since he ascended to the throne earlier this month.
"It's a very important thing, not only in Japan, but all over the world they're talking about it," Trump later said.
The Trumps exchanged gifts with Naruhito and Empress Masako, including framed and autographed photos of themselves. That's not narcissism — it's the custom.
He's no President Pothole
The latest stalemate on infrastructure — brought on by Trump's refusal to negotiate with Democrats so long as they are investigating him — is frustrating business leaders and communities desperate to revamp deteriorating roads, bridges and other transportation facilities, The Washington Post reports.
“We can no longer afford to wait,” said Tom Smith, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Our infrastructure problem is not going to go away, and it’s certainly not going to get better with time.”
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, recalling Trump's 2016 campaign promises, observed: "It's easy to say you’re going to work to fix bridges and highway and dams, but that’s just talk. In order to move the ball forward, you have to get out there and cheerlead for public works projects — and this president doesn’t know how to bring people together.”
Democrats out-Foxing themselves?
Democratic 2020 candidates are divided on whether to appear on Fox News' town halls, but some experts say those staying away are missing an opportunity to stand out, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.
"It’s not that you’re necessarily converting the predominantly conservative audience, it’s that you attract attention from other outlets," said Reece Peck, a CUNY College of Staten Island professor and author of “Fox Populism.”
Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have rebuffed Fox. Warren called the network a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists.”
What else is happening:
- Trump didn't cause much of a ripple by spending Memorial Day in Japan. It's been 74 years after the end of World War II. Compare that with the 71-year mark in 2016, when Trump tweeted: "Does President Obama ever discuss the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor while he's in Japan? Thousands of American lives lost."
- Trump is getting vaguer about how long it will take to win a trade agreement with China and end the tariffs war. "We’re not ready to make a deal," Trump said in Tokyo. "I think we will have a deal with China sometime into the future," he added.
- In line with Trump's disdain of climate-change science, the federal government will soon stop projecting the effects of global warming through 2100 and instead end the estimates at 2040, The New York Times reports.
- Biden has been running a limited-exposure campaign since joining the 2020 race, holding few events and infrequently taking questions from reporters, The Washington Post writes. He has a name-recognition advantage his rivals don't, but it's a risk with voters in early-primary states who want to see the candidates personally and often.
- The Democratic contest with its 23 candidates is far more fluid than Biden’s double-digit polling advantage would indicate, party leaders and strategists told The New York Times. At this time four years ago, in a smaller field, Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders in Iowa by 41 points. She won the state caucus by less than a single point.
- Democrat 2020 hopeful Amy Klobuchar told an Iowa crowd that Sen. John McCain "kept reciting" the names of dictators to her during Trump's inauguration speech in January 2017 "because he knew more than any of what we were facing as a nation."