House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Monday that President Trump’s bellicose tweet about Iran was “unbecoming of an American president” and called it an attempt to distract from his “essentially un-American” performance at last week’s summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The blistering assessment by Hoyer (D-Md.) came in response to Trump’s late-night warning Sunday to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — in all capital letters — that Iran will face severe consequences if it threatens the United States again.
“He’s weak on Putin, and he wants to prove he’s tough on Rouhani,” Hoyer said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s a distraction. It’s a distraction from the problems that he’s having both with the awful, essentially un-American performance that he had in Helsinki, and I think this is just a way to sort of turn and beat his chest and say, ‘I can be really tough on people,’ and Rouhani and Iran are an easy target.”
“As usual, the hyperbole he used was, in my opinion, unbecoming of an American president because the message it sends is not only of danger to Iran but danger to the global community,” Hoyer added. “One of the better Republican presidents said speak softly and carry a big stick. Trump does the opposite.”
Hoyer was referring to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Following a joint news conference last week with Putin in Helsinki, Trump was condemned by members of both parties for not confronting the Russian leader more aggressively about interference in the U.S. election in 2016.
In his tweet Sunday night about Iran, Trump warned Rouhani to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Earlier Sunday, Rouhani said the United States should avoid inciting Iranians against the government, with the Trump administration poised to reimpose sanctions suspended under a 2015 nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from in May.
“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said at a meeting of Iranian diplomats, according to Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency.
Other Democrats also stepped forward Monday to criticize Trump’s tweet.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told reporters in New Hampshire that such tweets “aggravate the situation.”
“We have a definite challenge with Iran,” Shaheen said. “I don’t think the president’s approach, creating foreign policy through tweet, is the right one. We need to have a strategy on Iran and how we approach them.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), meanwhile, said that Trump’s rhetoric toward Iran was reminiscent of some of the language he previously used regarding North Korea.
“Reckless Iran rhetoric creates risks — especially if words are unbacked by actionable strategy,” Blumenthal said on Twitter. “Remember N Korea, now continuing to build nuclear capability, despite ‘fire & fury’ & a failed summit. What is Trump’s Iran strategy?”
Also on Twitter, an account maintained by Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued an all-caps tweet of its own, seeking to turn attention to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“DON’T BE DISTRACTED BY ALL CAPS,” said the tweet from the committee Democrats, led by Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.). “WE’RE NOT ATTACKING IRAN. BUT RUSSIA *DID* ATTACK OUR 2016 ELECTIONS TO HELP DONALD TRUMP, AND IS DOING SO AGAIN. TRUMP REFUSES TO HOLD RUSSIA ACCOUNTABLE AND SIDES WITH PUTIN OVER OUR INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.”