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Trump still seems obsessed with how much world leaders “like” him
President Donald Trump addresses world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Wednesday bragged about the progress his administration has made with North Korea, citing his “very good relationship” with Kim Jong Un as evidence Pyongyang was serious about denuclearizing.

“He likes me. I like him,” Trump said of Kim during a wild press conference Wednesday. “We get along.”

He went even further in describing his affection for Kim during a rally Saturday evening, saying the two “fell in love” over “beautiful letters” following a year of tough talk.

“I was really tough and so was he, and we went back and forth,” Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in West Virginia. “And then we fell in love, OK? No, really, he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

The comments came after a week of meetings at the United Nations in New York and marked the latest instance of Trump touting the personal affinity he believes he shares with other world leaders — sometimes in bizarre terms, as he did last year in remarks about French President Emmanuel Macron.

“He’s a great guy — smart, strong, loves holding my hand,” Trump said of Macron in an interview with the New York Times in July 2017. “People don’t realize, he loves holding my hand.”

“That’s good!” he added to the Times.

Trump routinely frames United States dealings with foreign governments in highly personal terms that sometimes seem to reflect his individual feelings about world leaders more than the actual relationships between the countries.

Relations between the U.S. and strong allies like Germany and Canada, for instance, seem to have grown icy as Trump feuds with the leaders of those two countries.

At the same time, he’s adopted a warmer posture on governments with whom the U.S. has tense relationships like North Korea and Russia, bragging the leaders of those countries have an “excellent” relationship with him or have said “very nice things” about him.

It is, obviously, nothing new for leaders to have strong relationships with their foreign counterparts and to celebrate those relationships. Former President Barack Obama’s friendship with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is just one example.

But world leaders seem to recognize the way to Trump’s heart is through his ego and have reportedly used flattery to influence the praise-hungry president.

President Donald Trump shows off a “beautiful” letter he received from Kim Jong Un as he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday.
President Donald Trump shows off a “beautiful” letter he received from Kim Jong Un as he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday. Evan Vucci/AP

Of course, Trump’s desire for praise and attention doesn’t just extend to foreign affairs. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), once one of Trump’s most prominent conservative critics, has appeared to increasingly gain influence over the president as he shifts into one of his most ardent supporters.

Meanwhile, Trump is known to go after lawmakers who go against him, as he bragged to supporters at a rally in August.

“We always have somebody who says ‘I don’t like Trump. I don’t like our president. He destroyed my career,’ ” Trump said in Ohio. “I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes and that’s OK.”

He’s also been known to attack members of the press who, in his view, “say bad things about [him]” and, of course, to dismiss media reports he doesn’t like as “fake news.”

Trump has long been preoccupied with being popular and well-liked — so it’s perhaps worth noting he doesn’t appear to be either.

Accounts of his administration, including from at least one person who’s in it, suggest those close to him regard him as unhinged and unqualified.

Public opinion polls consistently show a significant majority of Americans disapprove of the job he’s doing as president.

And, when it comes to world leaders, it’s not clear how seriously they take him.

In a surreal moment of his address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, the crowd erupted in laughter as he boasted of his administration’s accomplishments.

It appeared to fluster the president at the time, but when asked about it in an off-the-rails press conference the next day, he’d come up with an explanation.

“They weren’t laughing at me,” Trump said. “They were laughing with me.”

“We had fun,” he said.