Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post warns, After Trump’s G-7 summit fiasco, be afraid (excerpt):
Trump’s Republican enablers, who ridiculed liberal Democrats for coddling dictators and ignoring allies (ah, the good old days when they groused, inaccurately, about the return of a Churchill bust!), should see what their groveling has wrought. They now back a president who does not put America or the West first. A
Manchurian Kremlin candidate could not show greater fealty to Russia nor more diligence in helping Russia pursue its goals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who refuses to consider reclaiming Congress’s role in trade, will see the consequences that flow from his and his fellow Republicans’ neglect of their constitutional obligations. Republicans have rejected their obligation to restrain an unfit executive and lessen the damage by reasserting Congress’s rightful power in areas such as trade. They are now Trump’s facilitators in his apparent desire to blow up the international world order — the world order America helped created and has always led. In that sense, McConnell, too, is helping, wittingly or not, to make Russia great again.
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As Trump is poised to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, he declares he’ll know within a minute whether the meeting will be a success. Here is a man declaring his gullibility and waiting to be snookered with a few smiles, some stomach-turning flattery and many empty promises from a calculating adversary. Trump seems not to know that the first meeting between the U.S. president and the dictator of North Korea is not an amazing achievement for the United States; it’s a huge win for Pyongyang.
In the case of the Singapore summit, we really do see a zero-sum equation. Trump, for fear of failing, seems to have defined “success” down to a photo op, thereby giving a massive victory to Kim, who obtains legitimacy and reduces, if not eliminates, any real risk of military action against his regime. Kim will do what North Korea has done again and again: speak nice words, pull the United States into fruitless discussions and give up nothing of consequence. The empty gesture of formally ending a war that has been over for 65 years achieves nothing for the United States but will burnish Kim’s image.
The notion that real denuclearization is even possible needs to be rethought. How could an entirely closed regime, replete with secret labor camps and a substantial military, ever allow inspectors to rove the entire country to determine what it has and what, if anything, it is giving up? How could Kim give up the jewel of his regime, the very thing that got him a summit with the world’s only superpower? Getting “investment” or economic aid from the West likely sounds like colonialism redux to the North Korean regime. Taking “help” from the West would be inviting the fox into the henhouse from their perspective. Surely someone in the Trump administration understands this, right? (Where is national security adviser John Bolton when you need him?)
Trump is now so desperate to show he’s “right” — a master negotiator who breaks every precedent — that it is becoming more and more likely the summit will deliver plenty of glad-handing but no concrete moves toward denuclearization. In that respect, Trump is exactly like every other American president who got pulled into a process whose end result is North Korea’s continuing status as a nuclear power. The main difference is that none of Trump’s predecessors were dim-witted enough to give the ghoulish dictator of North Korea a public-relations triumph. Oh, and they managed not to get into fights with Canada.
How do we know this will be just a photo-op? Reuters reports “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled to meet Trump at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday to talk about ending his country’s nuclear programme and transforming the isolated state which has been under harsh international sanctions for its defiant arms programme. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled to depart Singapore at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday.”
And let’s not forget that Trump has said he is totally prepared to walk away from the summit for dramatic effect, like it is some damn reality TV show.
This likely explains why Trump said he did not feel the need to prepare for his summit with North Korea. Trump on summit: ‘I don’t think I have to prepare very much’:
White House aides have been leaking word for several weeks that Donald Trump refuses to get prepared for next week’s summit with North Korea’s Jim Jong-un, and I’ve assumed the president would soon denounce the reports as “fake news.”
In a bit of a surprise, he did the opposite this afternoon. Not only did Trump effectively confirm the accounts, he also explained why he doesn’t see the point in doing his homework:
“I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude, it’s about willingness to get things done, but I think I’ve been preparing for this summit for a long time, as has the other side, I think they’ve been preparing for a long time also. So, this isn’t a question of preparation, it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.”
Just so we’re clear, when he says, “I’m very well prepared,” followed immediately by, “I don’t think I have to prepare,” Trump doesn’t see that as a contradiction. What the president seems to be arguing is that he doesn’t see the point in doing substantive policy work because he already has an innate understanding of negotiating.
In other words, when Trump says, “I’ve been preparing for this summit for a long time,” he’s not being literal. He means that he’s been engaged in private-sector deal-making for many years, which in his mind, has necessarily prepared him for bilateral diplomacy with a nuclear-armed dictator. (This might be more persuasive if he weren’t so spectacularly bad at making deals.)
It’s why Trump added that he doesn’t “have to prepare.” If the summit is about “attitude,” and he already has more attitude than he knows what to do with, he’ll leave the briefing books and policy details to the eggheads.
But as jarring as it was to see the president – any president, really – dismiss the importance of policy preparation, this isn’t just a point-and-laugh-at-the-foolish-president moment.
The New York Times published a report a couple of weeks ago that’s relevant anew.
[White House aides are] concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization. [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] and his aides reported that [Kim Jong-un] seemed highly conversant with all elements of the program when the two men met, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made similar comments about Mr. Kim, based on his two meetings with him in Pyongyang, the North’s capital.
But aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through.
As we discussed earlier, the substantive implications of this are real. Because Trump is comfortable with his ignorance, and he’s convinced himself that negotiating with a nuclear-armed dictator is about “attitude,” the North Korean leader will be in a position to exploit the American amateur’s lack of preparation.
Kim can, and probably will, present bad offers that Trump won’t recognize as weak. It’s increasingly easy to imagine the Republican embracing the terms of an agreement he doesn’t understand – if it’s more than a page, would he even read it? – in part out of desperation to score some kind of political victory, and in part because he won’t know the difference between a good deal and a bad one.
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post adds, The ‘dotard’ meets ‘Little Rocket Man’: Trump and Kim are adversaries with many similarities:
One is a septuagenarian American president, the other a millennial North Korean dictator. But each has nuclear weapons and mixes taunts and tributes to keep the other off balance. Thin-skinned alphas, both men are wedded to a go-it-alone leadership style, have a penchant for bombast and are determined to project dominance when they finally meet.
As President Trump prepares for his summit here Tuesday with Kim Jong Un, he sees some of himself in the authoritarian North Korean: an unorthodox and sometimes feared figure who distrusts the established world order and has a thirst to make history.
Publicly, Trump has labeled Kim “Little Rocket Man” and in private with aides has called him “a crazy guy.” Kim, in turn, has called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” a word suggesting senility.
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Kim “constantly feels like he has to prove himself, and in that sense he’s going to do what no other North Korean leader has done, and that is command an audience with the president of the United States. And for Trump, this is the only diplomacy that he’s doing in the whole world right now. Everywhere else he’s either walking out of agreements or sanctioning countries. . . . This is Trump’s only chance to make a mark as a statesman.”
The nuclear talks with North Korea are the ultimate test of Trump’s vision of foreign policy, which is that he can accomplish things that no previous president could by virtue of his unique approach to personal diplomacy.
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Kim and his lieutenants have been studying Trump closely for many months in preparation for their meeting, according to U.S. analysts. Kim, 34, took office as supreme leader in 2011 and has had scant exposure to foreign dignitaries. He traveled twice in recent months to China to meet with President Xi Jinping — in part, analysts believe, to learn what he was in for with a direct encounter with Trump.
Daniel Russel, a former diplomat who negotiated with North Koreans in the Obama administration, said Kim’s top advisers are quite sophisticated in their knowledge of the United States.
“Yes, the North Korean team has pored over not only ‘The Art of the Deal,’ but also the publicly available record about Donald Trump, ranging from media coverage to ‘Fire and Fury,’ ” he said, referring, respectively, to Trump’s 1987 book and Michael Wolff’s account of the early months of the Trump White House.
Russel, a vice president at the Asia Society, added: “The Kim team is filled with veteran negotiators with abundant experience with the United States, and they are clearly doing their opposition research, whereas the Trump team is noticeably thin on regional expertise.”
A real danger for Trump is that he underestimates the North Korean delegation’s abilities to outsmart the Americans, analysts said.
“You go, these guys are just a bunch of poor people; we can handle this; just be nice to them,” Cha said. But, he added, the North Koreans “are going to look for that sweet spot in terms of putting things on the table that make Trump look good but don’t commit themselves to full denuclearization. If you’re not familiar with the history of the negotiations and all their tricks, you can walk right into this thing completely wide-eyed.”
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Trump’s advisers say the president believes his personal relationship with another world leader is the most important factor in relations between those two countries and can overwhelm other issues to extract a concession or reach an agreement.
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Of all the foreign leaders Trump has encountered in his year and a half in office, Kim has been the most difficult for him to read, according to the president’s advisers.
“He’s unpredictable in ways I think President Trump prides himself on being,” said a former senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss Trump’s approach to North Korea. “He’s unorthodox. In Kim, even Trump realizes he may have met his match.”
The odds are good that the ‘Dotard’ is going to get played by ‘Little Rocket Man’ and he will agree to almost anything because he is so desperate to be seen as a statesman, and to lay claim to a Nobel Peace Prize.
The best case scenario is the photo-op is all the damage that Trump will do to American and South Korean interests. He could be back to his bellicose “fire and fury” by Tuesday evening.