It took a few days, but by Wednesday Democrats were sounding properly incensed about President Trump’s cringe-worthy performance in Singapore and his preposterous declaration that we no longer face a threat from North Korea.
Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — who had been one of the first to speak out on Tuesday — continued to admonish Trump. He said on the Senate floor Wednesday that “three things are clear: first, Chairman Kim achieved more than President Trump did; second, our adversaries Russia and China have gained, while our allies like South Korea and Japan have lost footing and some degree of faith in America’s reliability; and third, the summit was much more show than substance — what the Texans call all cattle, no hat.” He pointed out, “President Trump agreed to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea, and he called them ‘provocations’ — right out of the North Korean propaganda playbook — without the knowledge of South Korea or our own military. I guarantee you our military men and women were squirming when President Trump called our joint military exercises ‘provocations.’ ”
“Today President Trump tweeted that ‘there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.’ This is truly delusional,” tweeted Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “It has same arsenal today as 48 hours ago. Does he really think his big photo-op ended the DPRK’s nuclear program? Hope does not equal reality.”
In a radio interview, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) slammed Trump. “President Trump has ceded a lot, gotten no specifics and no guarantees in return,” he said. “He has reframed our exercises with South Korea . . . as provocative, which no American president, Republican or Democrat, has ever done,” he said. He pointed out that the joint agreement was weaker than the one the United States got in 1994. And on Twitter he blasted Trump for praising a brutal dictator: “In @realDonaldTrump’s eyes, brutal dictators get the benefit of the doubt but parents & kids fleeing unimaginable violence don’t. Got it.” (The reference was to the announced policy that asylum will not be granted to those who flee abuse and rape.)
Likewise, in response to Trump’s remark that the real enemy was the media, Rep. Eric Stalwell (D-Calif.) retorted, “That could have been issued from Pyongyang. That could have been issued from Moscow. That could have been issued from Ankara.” Earlier in the day he chided Trump on Twitter: “America’s president is supposed to be a leader of the world, not a publicist to a dictator. What have we gotten from #KoreanSummit? @realDonaldTrump should check his back pocket — his wallet may be in North Korea.”
And ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted, “Open lines of communication are always preferable to the possibility of military conflict, particularly nuclear war. An objective assessment of the result of the summit with North Korea, however, reveals dangerous concessions by Trump, and no new commitment or specifics by Kim.” He continued, “One trip and it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ Mr. President? North Korea still has all its nuclear missiles, and we only got a vague promise of future denuclearization from a regime that can’t be trusted. North Korea is a real and present threat. So is a dangerously naive president.”
Several lessons can be drawn here. First, none of these lawmakers were concerned about attacks that they are opposed to diplomacy; they made it crystal clear they are objecting to stupid diplomacy, to morally despicable praise and rationalization for the world’s worst human rights offender, and to Trump’s gullibility. Other Democrats — and Republicans, even! — can do the same. Second, while Democrats will tell you they don’t score points with their base on foreign policy, it is inarguable that they gain stature when they speak out. If you’re a 2020 contender and have remained mum, I’d suggest you speak up. Voters will want to know you can stand up to Trump on national security. Third, the more Democrats speak up, the weaker and more foolish Republicans, who used to deplore appeasement and praise for tyrants, look. Thanks to Trump, they are quickly whittling away any advantage they might have had on national security. Finally, sometimes speaking out, regardless of the politics, is simply the right thing to do. When Trump sounds like “peace for our time” Neville Chamberlain, it is time for the opposition party to sound a warning.