WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidates and other GOP leaders dropped their reluctance to criticize Donald Trump this weekend after the ex-president raised an unusual political issue: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump’s praise of Kim for a new post at the World Health Organization has drawn attacks from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Gov. of South Carolina Nikki Haley and other Republicans who said the former president’s foreign policy was reckless.
“I was surprised to see that,” DeSantis told reporters in Iowa, where a number of GOP candidates clashed over the weekend.
DeSantis condemned Kim as a “murderous dictator” and called the World Health Organization “bankrupt”. He and other Republicans have long attacked the organization for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to get out of this” rather than “praise” dictators for joining, the Florida governor said.
Pence, who plans to officially join the 2024 race this week, also took the opportunity to criticize the favorite.
“Whether it’s my former running mate or anyone else, no one should praise the dictator in North Korea,” Pence said in Iowa. Pence also pushed Trump for his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump, who has made one-on-one meetings with Kim a centerpiece of his foreign policy, sparked political furor with a Truth Social article on the news that North Korea has been elected to the World Organization’s board of directors. of health.
“Congratulations to Kim Jung Un!” Trump proclaimed.
Republican candidates have been hesitant to criticize Trump, given his broad base of support within the GOP.
But Haley, who was also Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News that “you don’t congratulate a thug.”
“I mean, let’s keep that in mind,” Haley said. “This thug threatened America. He threatened our allies over and over again. It’s not something to play with.”
Republicans who have long criticized Trump have also condemned his praise of the North Korean dictator.
Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex., who discussed the possibility of mounting his own long-term presidential bid, put it in terms of “right and wrong.”
“America is good and Kim Jong Un is evil,” Hurd tweeted. “It goes against everything we stand for and believe in praising the devil.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also pointed to Trump’s message on Truth Social, Tweeter “Taking our country back from Joe Biden doesn’t start with congratulating North Korea’s murderous dictator.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump praises Kim Jong Un; DeSantis, Pence and other GOP rivals pounce