Fabiola Santiago

The Trump-Rubio politics of hypocrisy: Cuba, no deal. North Korea? 'Has great beaches.'

Trump on North Korea: From foe to friend

President Trump used to call the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, “rocket man.” But over time, Mr. Trump has changed his tune.
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President Trump used to call the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, “rocket man.” But over time, Mr. Trump has changed his tune.

He doesn’t want you to think so, but as is customary for him, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is standing by his old campaign foe and "con man" — aka President Donald Trump — when it comes to engagement with North Korea’s brutal dictatorship.

"I too have concerns about how all this with #NorthKorea will turn out,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday after Trump’s historic summit with leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. “But I don’t recall all the 'experts' criticizing Obama when he met with a brutal dictator in #Cuba who also oversaw a police state & also killed & jailed his opponents. #DoubleStandard.”

It’s not true: President Barack Obama’s rapprochement policy got plenty of criticism and skepticism, too, including from yours truly. No one is spared from the poking and prodding of the fourth estate, one of the vital checks of a democracy.

But not yet satisfied he had made his point and offered a strong enough defense for Trump’s risky dalliance with one of the world’s most ruthless dictators, the Republican senator from Miami went on with yet another tweet:

"Presidents [sic] meeting with #KJU exposed incredible hypocrisy of many in media. When Obama did these things, he was described as enlightened. When Trump does it he is reckless & foolish. 1 yr ago they attacked Trump for leading us towards war, now attack for being too quick for peace.”

And after that, Rubio goes into a condemnation of Kim in another series of tweets — known in Miami as the "Marquito dance" — in which he tries to play to both sides.

Let’s see who could possibly be playing the politics of hypocrisy here:

With his historic visit and the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama took to the people of Cuba — not to an opulent hotel in a third country — a personal and policy message of hope: Change is possible.

During the joint press conference with Raúl Castro, there wasn’t a gaudy row of 12 overlapping American and Cuban flags as a backdrop, as there was at the greeting with Kim at the Capella Hotel.

Just one flag each, thank you. But during that conference Castro faced the harshest questions of his dictator career from the U.S. media about political prisoners and lack of freedoms — and Castro didn’t succeed in raising Obama’s arm in a show of victory.

The grilling on human rights, which visibly annoyed Castro, and the awkward photo of that moment is the image that remains in our minds. Even when Obama went to a Cuban baseball game with his family, he was all class and dignity in relating to Castro.

Yet, in vintage form, President Trump cuddled up to "rocket man” Kim in a disgusting touchy-feely display. Trump was the first to extend his hand eagerly and he pawed at Kim constantly, touching his back, saying he was "honored” to meet with him, and treating him like Kim was a good old chum, not a despot threatening to bring the world to nuclear war.

And because Trump never leaves his real estate business behind, during a post-summit press conference, he said he told Kim that, instead of pursuing nuclear ambitions, he should be building "the best hotels in the world” to boost the economy.

"North Korea has great beaches,” Trump told reporters. "You see that whenever they’re exploding cannons into the ocean. I said, 'Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’ ”

So much for the dignity that once was a crucial component of diplomacy and of the office of the U.S. president.

The reality star president delivers a reality show moment.

Pure entertainment, aptly covered by People magazine.

To learn about North Korea’s Hitler-style concentration camps, you’d have to turn to The New York Times, not the president.

For him, the world is about the real estate possibilities. Just like it was with Cuba — with plans for a Havana Trump Tower and a Varadero Beach golf resort — before Trump had presidential ambitions and needed to win Florida with the help of the hard-line Cuban-American vote.

Trump chose the road to engagement with North Korea because the White House isn’t a revolving door of North Korean dissidents used as political photo ops as there is with Cuba and Venezuela.

Trump isn’t engaging with Cuba’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, because he needs that Cuban-American vote to win the midterms and re-election.

And Obama's Cuba deal was "bad”?

Compared to Trump, Obama was a saint.

Compared to Kim, Díaz-Canel is a babe in diapers.

And when you throw Marco Rubio into the policy mix, what you get is political hypocrisy.