It sounded like a meme about the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, but it was not. It was heard on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” – the most conservative program in the most pro-Trump network in the U.S. – before the Singapore summit: “Regardless of what happens in that meeting, between the two dictators ... ” This led to an incisive reply from Adam Best, producer and founder of The Left, LLC. “This gaffe is probably the most honest thing ever said in the program’s history,” Best said. Chesterton would be proud of such sarcasm.*
Beyond the drama of the gestures made by Trump and Kim Jong Un, the specific agreements they reached are unclear. Trump canceled some joint military exercises with South Korea which, during the previous weeks, had been on the brink of derailing the meeting. It is unknown whether it was a gesture of good will or a concession. Pyongyang is committed to initiating denuclearization. There are no dates or deadlines or a budget for undertaking the task. All we know is that, in the words of the U.S. president, it will happen “very soon.”
Future Nobel Peace Prize?
At least it did not end with a door being slammed – which was one of the things people feared given the history and the volcanic nature of the two – and Trump took this success as an opportunity to pin a medal on himself. There are those already promoting his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The award already lacks such credibility that one more suspect recipient cannot undermine what little respect it has left. Quite often, the warrior’s respite gets confused with working honestly toward peace. The failed warriors include Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat, Henry Kissinger, Juan Manuel Santos and President Barack Obama, among others.
In order to sing his own praises during the summit, Trump falsely claimed that when he entered the White House, the U.S. and North Korea were on the brink of (nuclear) war. Whether or not they were on the brink of war, matters escalated later when he moved into the Oval Office and started hurling insults like missiles at Kim Jong Un, whom he called short and fat, and “Rocket Man,” among other offensive names.
The Majority Are In Favor
Promoting his success with Kim, who, like Trump, is already a global celebrity, will allow Trump to increase his popularity during the midterm elections in November. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 72 percent of Americans approved of the encounter. More than 90 percent of Republican voters indicated their support. What seems unusual is that only 20 percent of those surveyed believe that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons, which was the core issue. There are no polls in North Korea.
There was no discussion about human rights in order to avoid straining the atmosphere surrounding the event. Along with Eritrea, North Korea is one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Trump readily forgot those kinds of details, and in subsequent statements, he characterized Kim as a “tough guy,” like the heroes in John Ford movies.
During the summit, Trump showed his new friend a video prepared by his staff which celebrated both of them as great leaders. This is what Kim sought with all his atomic bells and whistles, to be treated as an equal. He must have liked that the Western press compared the Singapore summit to the great summit between Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill. If Kim were to denuclearize, he would be a nobody!
Attraction to Dictators
This Trumpian inclination of letting himself be dazzled by strong leaders – or to be more clear, by dictators – could be fodder for psychological analysis. Vladimir Putin is one example of that kind of strong leader, and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is another. This week, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, remarked that the president gets along worse with his Group of Seven allies, especially his Canadian neighbor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, than he does with strongmen.
While the spin doctors, and Trump himself through his Twitter account, proclaimed the summit as a diplomatic victory for the United States, the Russian press highlighted Kim’s success. One of these Russian newspapers claimed that Trump’s over-reliance on his own powers of persuasion make him a someone who could be manipulated. You might say that this opinion is biased because it comes from Russia. Well, just look at The Economist, a highly regarded liberal British magazine. It’s headline this week was “Kim Jong Won.”
Behind North Korea, one finds China, who along with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, is the great facilitator of this change, of this thaw which saw Trump switch from boasts and insults to inviting his former enemy to Washington. Do not rule out a stroll around Disneyland together. Given their profiles, they are bound to have a great time.
*Editor’s note: The author may have been referring to G. K. Chesterton, an English writer, poet philosopher and journalist, among other professions, who was referred to as the “prince of paradox.” Chesterton died in 1936.