Within the number of bizarre announcements that U.S. President Donald Trump stated during the series of interviews he gave on Monday are the surprisingly flattering comments he gave to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would, absolutely. I would be honored to do it,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Most political people would never say that, but I’m telling you, under the right circumstances, I would meet with him.”
In the usual Trump fashion, of course, he didn’t stop there. He went on to praise Kim Jong Un despite Pyongyang’s constant nuclear threats toward America and its allies. In an recent interview with CBS, Trump called the Kim a “pretty smart cookie.”
His fondness to strongmen has actually not been a secret, having had openly admired Russian President Vladimir Putin and others in the past. Trump recently congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a referendum victory that reinforces his authority. He also invited Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, despite the leader being recently accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court.
On Monday, a New York Times reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer regarding Trump’s propensity for authoritarian presidents.
“Does the president have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? Does he admire something about the way these guys conduct themselves?” reporter Glenn Thrush asked.
Spicer responded by noting that Trump said that the meeting he spoke about with the North Korean dictator would only occur under certain conditions.
“‘Under the right circumstances’ was the phrase I believe he used,” Spicer said. “We’d have to see their provocative behavior ratchet down immediately. There’s a lot of conditions that would have to happen with respect to its behavior and to show signs of good faith. Clearly, the conditions are not there right now.”
“The president clearly understands the threat that North Korea poses,” Spicer later said.
In defense of Trump’s invitation to Duterte, House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the intention was to help address the situation in the Korean peninsula. This is despite the Philippines not even being remotely connected to it, according to Slate.
“It doesn’t mean that human rights don’t matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row,” Priebus said.
During Trump’s Monday interviews, he also famously questioned why the American Civil War needed to happen, praising former President Andrew Jackson and noting that he would have stopped the war.
“Why couldn’t that one have been worked out?” Trump asked SiriusXM.
According to Politico, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley summed up Trump’s eerie day of interviews quite accurately.
“It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history,” Brinkley was quoted as saying. “It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president.”