If there was any doubt which side “won” the Trump-Kim summit this week, the North Koreans just scored a knockout punch against Donald Trump. North Korean state media just dropped a nonnuclear bomb on the Trump Administration with a behind-the-scenes photo of President Trump saluting a North Korean general in Singapore.
The photo, retweeted by CNN’s Jason Morrell, shows the American president with his right arm moving downward, obviously completing a salute to an unidentified North Korean general dressed in a Soviet-style uniform as Kim Jong Un looks on. The general’s right arm is also moving downward and is at a lower position than Trump’s, indicating the general broke the salute first. CNN also has a video of the moment.
The moment is reminiscent of President Obama’s 2009 bow to Saudi King Abdullah. Republicans, including then-private citizen Donald Trump, criticized Obama’s deference to a foreign leader and the White House denied that Obama had bowed at all.
It is difficult to justify an obvious salute to a soldier representing a hostile foreign power although Trump partisans are certain to find ways to do so. American presidents are not required to salute anyone. Even saluting American soldiers is optional, since the president is a civilian.
The Army Study Guide states that military members are required to salute when a foreign national anthem is played and when they meet the officer of a friendly foreign country. Under these guidelines, even President Trump’s Marine guards would not salute a North Korean general.
The disturbing photo of President Trump saluting an enemy soldier underscores how ignorant the president is about his job. Donald Trump simply does not understand the requirements of his position and, even after almost two years on the job, has not taken the time to learn.
To put it simply: American presidents should never bow to foreign leaders or salute enemy soldiers. Ever.
Just as alarming as the photo are President Trump’s own comments about Chairman Kim since their meeting. President Trump has heaped praise upon Kim and rationalized away the dictator’s brutal murders of political opponents and relatives, calling him a “tough guy” and saying “we understand each other.”
At the same time, the president has angered America’s traditional allies. Trump stormed out of the G-7 meeting in Canada after calling for Russia’s inclusion and objecting to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plans to implement retaliatory tariffs.
Fawning over dictatorial regimes while pushing away America’s traditional friends is not the way to Make America Great Again.
[Photo credit: North Korea/fair use]