Monday evening, as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore, ABC briefly preempted its popular show The Bachelorette to convey the important news. Some viewers were miffed, but they might have noticed some similarities between the two shows, from the pageantry to the semi-scripted, uncanny quasi-reality. And then there was President Trump himself, who, in his comments following his meetings with the North Korean supreme leader, sounded like a smitten contestant on the dating show.
It was an “honor” to meet Kim, Trump said. What surprised the American most about his counterpart? “Great personality and very smart—good combination,” he said. “I learned that he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.” He added that Kim was “a worthy negotiator … a very worthy, very smart negotiator.” The president continued to gush during a press conference and in interviews.
Trump’s flattery is noteworthy because he is much better known for vinegar than honey in his public statements. Yet his high praise for Kim stands together with his prior compliments for autocratic leaders around the globe, and in contrast to his sharp words for allies, especially democratic ones, over recent weeks—especially some harsh swipes at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump’s overt indifference to the question of human rights also shocks the conscience, and together with the emerging consensus that Kim got the better of Trump at the negotiating table, it raises new questions about Trump’s judgment and statesmanship.