After President Trump made a historic step into North Korean territory today to reestablish his courting of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, Democratic presidential candidates wasted no time in pointing out the folly of his ways, portraying the last-minute meeting as a mere grasp for media attention by a president who has found his precious cable news airtime supplanted by the coverage of this week’s Democratic debates.
A spokesperson for current frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement attacking the president for “coddling of dictators at the expense of American national security and interests.”
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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) accused Trump’s hastily arranged meeting of having “weakened the State Department” with what amounted to a very expensive photo op.
Sen. Bernie Sanders says he has "no problem" with Pres. Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un, adding: "I don't want it simply to be a photo opportunity… we need to move forward diplomatically, not just do photo opportunities." https://t.co/LmRneR8c4z pic.twitter.com/BG31BBbjHv
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 30, 2019
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — who has supplanted Sanders in some polls as the number two candidate in the Democratic race after this week’s debates — was even more critical of Trump’s attempts at bromance diplomacy.
Our President shouldn’t be squandering American influence on photo ops and exchanging love letters with a ruthless dictator. Instead, we should be dealing with North Korea through principled diplomacy that promotes US security, defends our allies, and upholds human rights. https://t.co/9ROpNfjYbY
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 30, 2019
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) weighed in as well with a dubious view of what the results of the president’s unorthodox and simplistic diplomatic initiative would be.
“We want to see a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a reduction in these missiles but it’s not as easy as just going and, you know, bringing a hot dish over the fence to the dictator next door,” Klobuchar declared on CNN’s State of the Union.
“This is a ruthless dictator and when you go forward, you have to have clear focus and a clear mission and clear goals,” she explained. “We’ve seen a history here, especially in this case where Donald Trump announces these summits and nothing really comes out of it,” the Minnesota senator said.
Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration, denounced the incompetence and lack of planning that Trump and his team displayed in setting up the surprise summit.
“It’s worrisome that this president erratically sets up a meeting without the staff work being done. It seems like it’s all for show, it’s not substantive,” Castro said on ABC‘s This Week.
“I am all for speaking with our adversaries, what’s happened here is this president has raised the profile of a dictator like Kim Jong Un and now three times visited with him unsuccessfully because he’s doing it backward,” he explained.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 30, 2019
The only Democratic candidate who refrained from attacking the president for his North Korea visit was one of the few in the pack with exactly zero foreign policy experience, Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who tweeted a reaction that may only focus attention on his lack of qualifications for that aspect of presidential responsibilities.
Anything that improves the political climate on the Korean peninsula and engages North Korea on its nuclear program is a good thing.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) June 30, 2019
Now that the debates are over, we can be sure that Trump does everything in his power to reestablish claim over the media spotlight that has provided him with millions of dollars worth of free campaign exposure as he begins his 2020 reelection bid.
The contrast with his opponents could not be more clear. If his meeting with Kim ultimately fizzles as badly as their previous summits did, he has just handed them another potent weapon in their arsenals against him.
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Original reporting by Alexander Bolton at The Hill.