Well, it happened: The president and the dictator met, shook hands, looked each other in the eye, smiled for the cameras — and lied through their teeth.
The visuals, we witnessed. The lies we infer — from experience, history and redundant prescience. But the summit was definitively historic. Let us count the ways.
Donald Trump, the unlikeliest president in U.S. history, traveled to Singapore to meet with the leader of North Korea, which no other American president has done (for excellent reasons), and hand-delivered to Kim Jong Un — an untrustworthy, murdering, torturing, enslaving, global nuclear menace who starves his people and regularly threatens the U.S. and its allies — what he covets most.
Trump gave him power.
It’s true, as you say, Mr. President, that you’ve done what no other would. You’ve traded American authority and legitimized a petty provocateur. For what? For the possibility, as you suggested, of a beachfront hotel overlooking the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan or, in the event of a peaceful reunification with South Korea, the East China Sea? But for the minor matter of trademarks, Ivanka’s swimsuits are sure to be a hit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be mistaken. I’m not lobbying for failure, but there’s little reason to believe that Kim will honor Trump’s expectations — or vice versa. The so-called agreement includes nothing substantive to justify optimism — no defining terms of what denuclearization would look like, no outline for verification, not even a timeline.
All we have is Trump’s assurance that Kim is a really good guy — which former NBA star Dennis Rodman already told us — and “very talented,” meaning God-knows-what, though certainly he’s a visionary when it comes to coiffure. Lest we overlook Rodman’s imperious role in North Korean relations his presence in Singapore wearing a PotCoin T-shirt is being credited for the cryptocurrency’s sudden surge.
As though June 12, 2018, needed a cartoonish flourish.
In addition to Trump agreeing to end what he called the “provocative” and “tremendously expensive” military exercises in the region, he also mentioned removing some 30,000 U.S. troops from South Korea, delivering a win to China and, seemingly, surprising U.S. military leadership in Korea.
The devil, as always, is in the propaganda — a four-minute video, styled like a movie trailer, that Trump showed Kim in which the two leaders are presented as world saviors. And the art of the deal in this case is in keeping with Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder. He views the world through the lens of his own self-interest.
Thus, Trump tried to tempt Kim with his real estate developer’s perspective. Explaining to reporters later, he said: “They have great beaches. You see that whenever they are exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy look at that view.’ Wouldn’t that make a great condo?”
There’s undeniable logic to this approach, even if it could benefit Trump directly. Aggressive nuke-mongering and tourism tend not to mix well. A great, big beautiful hotel or condo building — or dozens — bearing the name Trump could help resuscitate North Korea’s lifeless economy. And the rest of the world could exhale.
While some nations have issued congratulatory post-summit statements at absolutely no risk to themselves, others such as Iran were more circumspect. Said Iranian spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht: “We don’t know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that (Trump) would not cancel the agreement before returning home” — a caveat not lacking in merit.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency stands at the ready to begin verification activities as warranted. Trump, too, has promised to stay on top of the deal, telling reporters: “We’re going to have to check it. We will check it. Total and complete.”
That is just super awesome, Mr. President. And if the deal should collapse any minute now? Trump is prepared for that, too.
“I may be wrong,” he said to reporters. “I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
Indeed. Total and complete, exploding cannons and all.