The Best Insulters
To paraphrase the country-western song, when it comes to outright scorn, the North Koreans were insulting before insulting was cool.
All those decades of practice mean they are still setting the standard. Who else would refer to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a "poisonous plant"? Yup, that's what the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho called Pompeo after Pompeo's routine comments about continuing sanctions against that totalitarian government. You have to admit it's inventive invective, even better than anything from that "Little Shop of Horrors" known as the Trump administration.
However, when it comes to quantity versus quality of verbal abuse, President Donald Trump is unmatched. Every time he heads to a summit of world leaders to do diplomacy, expect to cringe. He's running out of allies to offend.
Other than the U.K.'s Boris Johnson, who has also parlayed meaningless promises into real power, the American president constantly trash talks those who head up democracies and are traditional allies of the United States. He has an obvious preference for autocrats, the more despotic the better. How else to explain North Korea's tyrant Kim Jong Un, and Trump's unabashed declaration that he and Kim "fell in love"? How else to describe his relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin? We're talking about a leader who so offended the others with his takeover of Crimea in 2014 that they tossed his country out of their economic group the G-8, making it the G-7. Now, although Crimea remains occupied, Trump has rattled the cages of the other leaders by suggesting that Russia should be allowed back. Like that old vegetable juice commercial, he's exclaiming "Gee, we should be a G-8!" The others aren't swallowing it, but it's one more prick in their sensitivities from a man who they already consider a word we can't use here.
Of course, you can cross the geopolitical line with insults. From afar, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is another Donald Trump, disparaged the wife of Emmanuel Macron. Marcon took umbrage, as he should have. Even Trump hasn't gone that far.
Although he did manage to antagonize the Danish prime minister, and then got back at her by canceling his scheduled trip to Copenhagen. All that over his rebuffed desire to purchase Greenland, in case you don't keep up with all the Trumpster garbage.
It's good that he got away, because he's running out of people to slam back home, too. Besides, he's trying to wriggle out of blame for an economy that might be heading into the toilet, already fouled by his tariff war with China.
He has serious indigestion, but he's trying to gaslight his way out of the mess in his usual way: by blaming others. It's the media's fault, he says, for promoting a recession. It's also China's fault and President Xi Jinping's, too. But he's also heaping blame on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, whom, by the way, he selected. "My only question is, who is our bigger enemy," he tweeted, "Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?" Powell had made it clear in a speech that he would not reduce interest rates just because POTUS dictated it. That is why Trump went apoplectic. He has a tired habit of calling adversaries "enemies." Reporters and editors are "enemies of the people." So, welcome to our club, Chairman Powell.
And welcome home, Mr. President. Perhaps the biggest news you made abroad was your acknowledgment that you actually have "second thoughts" about most everything you say and do. Maybe that's why you constantly reverse course, which is a polite way of saying your word cannot be trusted. Besides, the problem is less with your "second thoughts" than your first ones, which assumes you even think before you blurt something out.
Is that an insult? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha." Admittedly it's kind of a puny one. Certainly compared with Brazil's Bolsonaro, who made the North Korean foreign minister look subtle when he called Pompeo a "poisonous plant."
(c) 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.