The Corner

Politics & Policy

Dictators, Double Standards, and More

Gretchen Whitmer, now the governor of Michigan, campaigns in Lansing on August 20, 2018. (Jeff Kowalsky/Reuters)

My Impromptus today begins with a couple of North Korean defectors whom National Review readers have met before: Thae Yong-ho and Ji Seong-ho. I have talked with and written about both. Extraordinary men (and you would be hard-pressed to find a North Korean defector who was not extraordinary). They have been elected to the South Korean parliament. That is an amazing story, on many levels.

The column continues with U.S. politics, cruise ships, and other items — including a hymn. Here on the Corner, I would like to do a little amplifying.

In Mexico, Gabriel Zaid, a senior intellectual, has described the president as “el poeta del insulto.” I mean the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a.k.a. AMLO. He is “the poet of the insult.” In an interview, Enrique Krauze, the Mexican historian, told me that AMLO does indeed have “a truly poetic gift for insulting.” The president “has coined scores, if not hundreds, of insults, in order to attack, diminish, delegitimize, and harm people who don’t agree with him.”

Of course, populists at large are poetas del insulto. Hugo Chávez was perhaps the master, as in all things populist. Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, is not far behind. He recently said to a reporter, “You have such a homosexual face.” The fans lap it up.

In Impromptus today, I point out that our own president, Trump, has a predilection for “third-rate.” That’s one of his moves. When irked by someone, he calls him “third-rate.”

Back during the 2016 campaign, he was irked at Hugh Hewitt. So he called Hugh a “third-rate radio announcer.” Last month, he tweeted that Rep. Thomas Massie was “a third rate Grandstander.” (The capital G was thrown in at no extra charge.) More recently, he called Jonathan Karl a “third-rate reporter” who “will never make it.” (Karl is the White House correspondent of ABC News.)

And now, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times has received the same treatment: “third-rate reporter.”

“Can’t Trump shake it up a little?” That’s what I write in my column. Can’t he go for fourth-rate, or fifth-rate, or even second-? Does it always have to be third?

In a similar vein, I call for more imagination in the realm of comparisons to dictators. Trump calls the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, “Half Whitmer.” Get it? “Halfwit.” But others are now calling her “Hitmer.” Get that? In Lansing, they are holding signs that say, “Heil, Hitmer.”

“You know, I don’t see why they can’t pick another dictator,” I observe in my column. “It’s always Hitler. It’s never Stalin, Mao, Bokassa, Pol Pot, Mengistu, Castro (either one of them). There are so many to choose from. And yet it’s always Hitler.”


Last night, Katherine Faulders, of ABC News, issued a tweet, in which she referred to “Trump.” The new presidential press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tweeted back at Faulders, “To you, he’s not Trump, he’s PRESIDENT Trump!”

I would make three points. (1) That is not very American. (2) All of us conservatives would go ape if a Democratic press secretary said such a thing. You know it, right? And (3) President Trump himself is not exactly a stickler for decorum. What does he call other officials? “Half Whitmer.” “Crazy Joe.” “Crazy Nancy.” “Sleepy Joe.” “Nervous Nancy.” “Cryin’ Chuck.” “Liddle’ Bob Corker.” Etc., etc.

To borrow an old line, if we did not have double standards, we would have no standards at all.