The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Word Fitly Spoken Is Like Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver

What we say necessarily lives in the shadow of what we do.

The democracies could not beat Hitler without a hecatomb of Soviet soldiers, so FDR and Churchill made nice with Stalin. When Ike wanted to lessen tensions with Stalin’s heirs, he invited Khrushchev to the United States. Nixon sought to exploit the wedge between the Soviet Union and Communist China, so he toasted Mao. Now Trump saw an opening to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, so he went to Singapore.

But experience teaches us that in making such overtures and alliances we tend to go overboard in ways that forfeit reserve and self-respect.

President Trump’s Kim video will be edited and shown to Kim’s helots repeatedly, probably (especially?) also in their prison camps. Trump’s spoken and tweeted praise of Kim exceeds even the praise that Trump’s admirers here heap on him. As dessert before the meal, Trump tossed yet another favor to Putin before going to Singapore, suggesting Russia make the G-7 a G-8 again.

Trump’s policies often contradict his words. But when he opens his mouth in the vicinity of despots, a toad jumps out.

Trump is supposed to have learned his politicking from Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn was a man of many sins, but he disliked Communism, and the Russian secret service. Can we have a president with the moral discernment of Roy Cohn?

Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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