New York Times board: Trump 'turns to mush' around strongmen

New York Times board: Trump 'turns to mush' around strongmen
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The editorial board of The New York Times blasted President Trump amid his trip abroad, saying he "turns to mush" in the presence of "strongmen."

In a column published Monday, the editorial board wrote that authoritarian leaders have a "strange and powerful attraction" for Trump.

"As his trip to Asia reminds us, a man who loves to bully people turns to mush — fawning smiles, effusive rhetoric — in the company of strongmen like Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines," the board wrote.

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"Perhaps he sees in them a reflection of the person he would like to be."

The board said Trump's "obsessive investment in personal relations" might work for a real estate dealmaker.

"But the degree to which he has chosen to curry favor with some of the world’s most unsavory leaders, while lavishing far less attention on America’s democratic allies, hurts America’s credibility and, in the long run, may have dangerous repercussions," the board wrote.

Trump said last week he believed Putin when he said he didn't interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. He later clarified his comments, saying he believes "our intel agencies" who say that Russia interfered.

Trump also praised Duterte, saying the two have a "great relationship." The White House later said the two men "briefly" discussed human rights in the context of Duterte's drug crackdown, but the Philippine president's spokesman said the issue was not discussed.

"It’s not uncommon for American presidents to foster relations with strongmen," the editorial board wrote.

"Still, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, these past presidents worked within a structure of longstanding alliances and, in varying degrees, espoused support for democratic values, including the rule of law and human rights, all the while trying to nudge the autocrats along a similar path."

The editorial board blasted Trump for invoking the importance of human rights "only against governments he despises, like North Korea, Iran and Cuba."

"Insecure, delusional and frustrated at his inability to act unilaterally, he sees himself as uniquely tough and the only person in his administration capable of achieving foreign policy goals," the editorial said.

The editorial board said these qualities have weakened the State Department and the "cadre of professional diplomats that is central to successful international problem-solving."

"It has left to other nations the important tasks of pursuing goals like climate change and the Iran nuclear deal. In major ways, he is dealing America out of the game."