News Journal:Trump slaps allies, hugs dictators

“I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people.” That’s what UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said about President Donald Trump just before he addressed the United Nations on Tuesday. Really? I personally think she has it completely reversed. Here’s why: What ally would most of us choose as perhaps our closest? I’d say the United Kingdom. But it has certainly gotten Twitter slaps, not hugs, from our president. More from Kaufman: Federal tax reform isn’t going to happen Most recently, after a terrorist attack in London, he questioned the competence of one of the world’s leading security forces by saying “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” Prime Minister Theresa May restrained herself by saying the tweet “wasn’t helpful.” It certainly was gratuitous; there was no credible evidence that security forces were in any way negligent. Remember the slap he tweeted in June? London’s mayor issued a fairly standard statement after a terrorist attack: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.” President Trump then tweeted, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Completely misconstruing what the mayor said was “no cause for alarm,” our president gave the Brits yet another reason to wonder what supposed friends are for. No wonder a recent Vox poll in England determined that only 10 percent of them approve of Trump. So much for hugging our closest ally. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House in March to discuss the future of this important alliance, President Trump made a public point of not shaking her hand. Then, in May, he once again turned to Twitter to attack a friendly country. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.” Of course, we can’t have a trade deficit with Germany because it is part of the European Union, but facts don’t seem to interfere when slapping an ally. Things are not much better in France. In its last election, Trump publicly supported far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and snubbed Emmanuel Macron, who is now the country’s president. I could go on and on. Remember our new president hanging up in a phone conversation with the Australian prime minister? Or the continuing taunts aimed at Mexico? But let’s look at how he treats countries and leaders who haven’t been allies.Russian President Vladimir Putin has been at odds with the United States and our NATO allies throughout his career. He invaded and occupied the Crimea. He has made threats against NATO allies and especially former members of the Soviet Union. And every one of our intelligence agencies has determined that he used cyber warfare to help Trump’s campaign last November. If there were ever a right person to slap, one would think it would be Putin. But if you can recall a real one, let me know. President Trump has never taken back what he said about Putin months ago: “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing — the man has very strong control over a country.” Putin is the most obvious example of an anti-American strongman who is getting Trumpian hugs instead of slaps. But there are, unfortunately, a few others. He called Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and gave him a big congratulatory hug after an election marred by widespread voter fraud. Erdogan was given almost dictatorial powers and he has used them to lock up political opponents and wipe out freedom of the press. None of this was mentioned when Erdogan visited the White House, a visit that was followed by Erdogan’s guards beating up peaceful protesters while Erdogan watched. President Obama had refused to invite Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Washington because of widespread human rights violations. But he was one of the earliest foreign leaders invited to the Trump White House, where he was praised for doing “a tremendous job under trying circumstances.” According to Human Rights Watch, al-Sisi has done this job primarily by filling Egypt’s jails with tens of thousands of political dissidents. And of course there is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is accused of killing 7,000 Filipinos as part of his anti-drug crusade. Among them were some journalists, but “just because you are a journalist,” Duterte said, “you are not exempted from assassination.” Worthy of a slap? Not on your life. President Trump had what his press office described as a very friendly telephone conversation with Duterte that included an invitation to the White House. I hope some journalist here in the United States gets to ask Ambassador Haley how she can justify her assessment. All I know is the rest of the world has noticed that the President of the United States seems eager to slap our allies and hug dictators. That’s bad for our standing in the world, and tragic for our values and our democracy. Ted Kaufman is a former U.S. Senator from Delaware.