Senator Bernie SandersPresident TrumpDonald John TrumpWhat you need to know about Tuesday’s elections Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary Laxalt, Sisolak to face off in Nevada governor’s race MORE , Bernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Takeaways from Trump-Kim summit | Confusion over pledge to halt war games | Lawmakers want vote on any deal | Effort to kill Trump tariffs blocked Bernie Sanders: Trump-Kim summit a ‘positive step’ Republicans can thank Democrats sliding to the left for 2018 fortunes MORE (I-Vt.), acting more like a commander in chief than castigated Trump for being unable to get along with leaders of democratic nations while appearing comfortable with authoritarians, dictators and despots.
Trump is now a danger to the democratic alliance. He is the only president in American history who treats America’s friends like enemies and its enemies like friends.
Sanders and other Democrats who make this charge are right. It was incredible to watch Trump alienate democratic leaders at the recent Group of Seven summit, suggest that Russia should rejoin the group while Russia is attacking western democracy and insult Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a great friend of America and democracy.
It was equally incredible to watch Trump praise on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un mere hours later, who Sanders and most Democrats believe is a despotic abuser of human rights unworthy of any praise.
All sane Americans were hoping that the summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim would be a success. Unfortunately, it was a only a success for Kim Jong Un, with little benefit and potentially some harm to the free world.
Here is the scoreboard after President Trump’s “historic” meeting with North Korean dictator and mass murderer Kim Jong Un:
Kim Jong Un, one of the worst human rights abusers in modern world history, won a tremendous domestic and international public relations victory that North Korean dictators have long hungered for, appearing as a charming world leader and statesman equal to the president of the United States on the world stage.
The North Korean dictator, who has amassed a gigantic conventional army that threatens democratic South Korea, was handed a sizable victory when Trump agreed to end American-South Korean military exercises and repeated his long-term goal of withdrawing American troops from South Korea.
It is hard to determine which would be most disagreeable, if Trump does not understand the security damage that these pledges do to American and South Korean security, or if he does understand and offers this unilateral concession deliberately.
The military exercises serve important security purposes. They provide deterrence to North Korea, which poses substantial conventional military dangers to South Korea. These exercises send a signal of American resolve to North Korea.
These exercises create a considerable increase in military readiness of both American and South Korean forces, which is the greatest deterrence against a North Korean attack.
It would have been fine and proper for Trump to agree to cut back or end these exercises in return for a larger agreement that includes substantial concessions by North Korea, including both denuclearization and a reduction of North Korean conventional forces. Instead Trump got nothing, and gave away an important security asset for free.
Kim Jong Un is a mass-murdering dictator whose prisons are full of citizens tortured because they oppose his abuses of individual liberty and human rights.
Trump, who has opposed a strong human rights policy and repeatedly praises foreign dictators who abuse human rights, offered repeated praise of Kim Jong Un while failing to strongly condemn his human rights abuses.
Bernie Sanders, congressional Democrats and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNetflix extends agreement to stream Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Trump, Kim make history with summit Obama congratulates Capitals on Stanley Cup win MORE were all right. America must always be a beacon of light for human rights. No president should praise foreign dictators and insult democratic allies.
Trump literally and figuratively let Kim Jong Un get away with murder. Literally, because he should have unequivocally condemned North Korean human rights abuses, including murder, torture and political prisons.
And figuratively, Trump let Kim Jong Un get away with murder in negotiations, extracting crucial concessions from Trump without giving concessions in return. Trump gave Kim powerful stature on the world stage. Trump gave Kim an end to military exercises and a free pass for human rights abuses.
In return, Kim Jong Un gave Trump nothing except paper promises in a letter that included nothing binding, specific, detailed or enforceable. Kim merely agreed to general words about denuclearization that mean nothing in fact, without any concessions about verification that are crucial in practice.
Trump has spent his entire time in office falsely accusing former presidents from both parties of not receiving anything in return for American concessions in negotiations. Trump has now made major concessions to Kim Jong Un. He received nothing in return except paper promises that North Korean dictators have violated for generations.
Trump should listen to Sanders and others who believe in praising democratic leaders and condemning foreign dictators, not treating America’s friends like enemies and our enemies like friends.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.