President Trump spent the better part of his Labor Day morning doing what he does best these days — airing a laundry list of petty, grammatically mangled grievances on Twitter.
There were, of course, the usual suspects: "sleepy" Joe Biden and "radical left" politicians — no real surprises there. But nestled within the president's matryoshka of unmoored aggrievement was an unexpected bit of diplomatic revisionism about Trump's much-documented gushing over his and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's burgeoning friendship.
Ostensibly, the bizarre aside was delivered under the guise of a swipe against the president's former national security adviser, John Bolton, a longtime target for Trump's ex post facto ire.
While Trump didn't elaborate on what Bolton had actually said, or where he'd heard it, Bolton has not been shy about criticizing his former boss over his relationship with Kim and the degree to which he believes Trump has been duped by the North Korean leader.
"I don’t know any other explanation," Bolton said during an interview with ABC News this past June. "I think Kim Jong Un gets a huge laugh out of this."
And in an interview with NPR that same week, Bolton stressed that he'd heard Trump comparing his diplomatic dance with North Korea to his dating life.
"He always wanted to be the one who broke up with the girl first," Bolton explained. "He didn't want the girl to break up with him. And he used that to describe whether he would cancel the summit with Kim Jong Un first or whether we would risk the North Koreans canceling it. And I thought it was an insight into the president, candidly given, that showed how he approached this."
Okay, so that's Bolton's characterization — one that, admittedly, may be colored by the fact that he was subsequently fired by Trump. But how has Trump himself described his relationship with Kim? Here's the president's own words, delivered during a political rally in 2018.
"I was really tough and so was he, and we went back and forth," Trump said. "And then we fell in love, okay? No, really, he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love."
And here's the president at the United Nations a short time later:
We have a very good relationship. He likes me. I like him. We get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters — just one — to [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe, he said, 'This is actually a groundbreaking letter. This is an incredible — this is a historic letter." And it is a historic letter. It’s a beautiful — it’s a beautiful piece of art.
It was a very positive letter. I think we’ll have another meeting. He really wrote a beautiful, three-page letter … a really beautiful letter.
If, as Trump insisted Monday, he was "just being sarcastic" about the letters in question, then he should be commended for his years-long commitment to the bit!
Or perhaps we should entertain the possibility that, with the election coming up soon, the president has realized he might need to temper his diplomatic credibility a bit, after spending the bulk of his first term in office heaping praise on an authoritarian dictator.