Trump campaign claims he'll 'stand up' to dictators he's praised for 4 years

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Donald Trump repeatedly lauded China's Xi Jinping for his coronavirus response.

The Trump reelection campaign is pushing the image of Donald Trump as tough on dictators and authoritarians such as China's Xi Jinping.

Trump's record with Xi and other leaders, such as Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, suggests otherwise.

The campaign released a video on Sunday featuring its communications director, Tim Murtaugh, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) discussing "China and Joe Biden's cozy relationship with China and his history of making excuses for them and not taking them seriously."

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In the video, Cruz said that the 2020 election was to a large extent about "who is best prepared to be commander in chief and to stand up to China."

"The contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on that question is staggering," Cruz opined. "It's not even kind of a little bit close and little differences. It is night and day." He accused Biden of "dismissing" and "palling around with China," while claiming "Trump has led in that regard."

"One of the things that drives me crazy about Democrats is they have this nasty little habit of apologizing for Communist dictators," Cruz told Murtaugh. "They think they're cute."

Earlier this month, the Trump campaign put up a blog post making a similar argument, under the heading, "Joe Biden is weak on China and would oversee another weak economic recovery."

"Beijing Biden, who has supported and defended China for decades, won’t hold that country accountable for inflicting the coronavirus on the rest of the world," the post said. It also quoted a Wisconsin Trump support who said he "definitely" wants "Trump fighting against China rather than Biden, by far."

But Trump has frequently complimented China's unelected leader Xi, calling him the country's "great President Xi" and a "great gentleman." Just weeks ago, Trump repeatedly praised Xi's handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

"China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," Trump tweeted in late January. "It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!"

"Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus. He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days." he tweeted on Feb. 7. "Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!"

Sixteen days later, on Feb. 23, Trump said, "I think President Xi is working very, very hard. I spoke to him. He's working very hard. I think he's doing a very good job.

"It's a big problem. But President Xi loves his country. He's working very hard to solve the problem, and he will solve the problem. OK?"

Asked in late April why he was so complimentary about China in the past, he replied, "Well, I'm making a trade deal with China. This was before the virus. Of course I'm going to be complimentary."

Trump has also praised other authoritarians.

He famously took Vladimir Putin's word over American intelligence on the question of whether Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. When Bill O'Reilly said to Trump during a February 2017 Fox News interview that Putin is "a killer," Trump stood up for the Russian leader, responding: "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

"I was really being tough and so was he," Trump said of North Korea's Kim Jong Un in 2018. "And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. ... They were great letters. And then we fell in love."

"Where's my favorite dictator?" Trump asked as he awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last year.

And after Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman allegedly had a Washington Post journalist brutally killed, Trump defended Salman, saying, "Iran's killed many, many people a day."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.