Gary Abernathy seems to really enjoy the insane tweets that Donald Trump writes about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (“Trump is right to bully America’s enemies,” Washington Post, 1/7/2018):
In recent years, anti-bullying campaigns have become standard fare in high school and college. Our society has decided, rightly, that bullies should no longer be tolerated because their hurtful attacks can lead to lifelong scars and even, in extreme cases, suicide by the victims.
Likewise, Donald Trump, as both a candidate and president, has been accused of being a bully, his critics attacking him for his bluster and insensitivity.
It seems the only bullies who remain off limits — in the eyes of media critics, numerous politicians and many other Americans — are rogue-nation dictators and terrorist organizations. We should treat those bullies with kid gloves, many say.
Here’s Abernathy subconsciously mimicking Trump with the “many say” routine, only I can’t think of a single example of anyone who presents themselves as a serious person suggesting that we treat Kim Jong-un or anyone else with “kid gloves”—what they actually say is that we have to be cautious because these are dangerous people who could do a lot of harm, both to their own populations as well as to populations abroad. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to go out of your way to make sure you don’t carelessly provoke an unneeded military conflict, but hey, you tell us why inadvertently starting a nuclear crisis is good, Abernathy.
Trump’s approach — one for which millions of Americans have longed — is to treat them like the sniveling bullies they are. From his description of Kim as “Little Rocket Man” to his retorts to the dictator’s nuclear threats, Trump refuses to feign respect.
Well, yeah, Trump can barely feign respect for the Bible, so it shouldn’t be difficult to lash out at a foreign dictator. But the problem isn’t just that he’s poking at a nuclear-armed country with childish taunts, it’s that he treats American civilians the same way. He’s bullied the Khan family. Lavar Ball. The cast of Hamilton. Colin Kaepernick. And a litany of American politicians who have ever dared to criticize him for anything. He treats regular American citizens with the same level of contempt he does Kim Jong-un. He has more contempt and hatred for kneeling NFL players than he does the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.
And Trump doesn’t treat all these foreign “bullies” the same. He’s friendly with Rodrigo Duterte, who allows the police to execute suspected drug users in the streets. Trump allowed himself to be dazzled by the treatment from the unelected leader of China, Xi Jinping. He approves of the authoritarian president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And that’s to say nothing of his bizarre admiration for Vladimir Putin, a man whose critics keep turning up dead.
But more to the point, Abernathy’s argument falls flat when we consider that Trump is highly susceptible to flattery. If Kim Jong-un had made a statement praising the strength of Donald Trump (we know this wouldn’t happen, but I’m just trying to make the point), he’d probably call Jong-un his friend and praise him for being such a stand-up guy. After all, he doesn’t seem to mind the adoration of racists.