Guy W. Farmer: President Trump to meet brutal dictator Kim Jong Un
Because I trashed President Trump as a rude, crude bully yet again last Sunday, I think it’s only fair to give him credit when he does something right, or almost right. I think his acceptance of an invitation to meet with brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un by the end of May represents a unique opportunity to denuclearize the “Hermit Kingdom” — but it’s a long shot.
Trump surprised many of his closest advisers by accepting North Korea’s unexpected invitation only hours after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired on Tuesday, said a Trump-Kim meeting was a remote possibility at best. A senior administration official told reporters the president “is happy to depart from the usual rules of diplomacy,” and with good reason.
“Literally, going back to 1992, the United States has engaged in direct talks … with the North Koreans, and I think that history speaks for itself,” the White House official said. Yes it does, because overtures to North Korea by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama yielded no positive results and a few embarrassments like Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, dancing the Macarena in Pyongyang. That cringe-worthy moment was almost as embarrassing as cross-dressing basketball player Dennis Rodman’s ignorant and pitiful attempts at “diplomacy” in North Korea.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who traveled to North Korea eight times to negotiate hostage releases, told USA Today he was “flabbergasted” when he heard Trump had accepted North Korea’s invitation. “My initial reaction is that it was the right decision … but I’m very concerned the president and his team won’t be prepared for some very tough negotiations,” Richardson said. Not to worry, however, because Trump considers himself to be the world’s best dealmaker. As we say in Spanish, “Vamos a ver” (we’ll see).
“The North Koreans are very tough, disciplined negotiators,” Richardson continued. “They don’t think like we do.” Their positions “emanate from … the cult of personality of their leaders.” We seem to have a cult of personality developing in Washington, D.C., so the Trump-Kim negotiations should be interesting, to say the least. Two supremely self-confident egomaniacs will meet face-to-face to discuss the spread of nuclear weapons and the fate of mankind. Cue the psychiatrists.
USA Today reported Washington Democrats were “cautiously optimistic but skeptical” about the Trump-Kim meeting. While Richardson said Democrats “should get behind the president on this one,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said “the U.S. enters into this arrangement with a serious dearth of regional experts and experienced negotiators (and) a hollowed-out State Department.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat and never-Trumper, upped the ante by saying, “The prospect of the ever-vacillating, uninformed, impulsive and easily flattered Donald Trump negotiating anything important is a little scary.” Yes it is, especially when he’ll be negotiating with a cruel, uninformed, impulsive and easily flattered dictator/tyrant. And don’t forget both of these impulsive, unpredictable men have their fingers on nuclear triggers, although Trump says his is bigger and more powerful than Kim’s, which isn’t all that reassuring to those of us who hope to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
Not long ago Trump was threatening “Little Rocket Man” (Kim) with “fire and fury,” but they’ll soon meet to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Kim has finally achieved what he, his late father and grandfather have been seeking for many years — a face-to-face meeting with the president of the United States. Let’s hope for the best while preparing for the worst.
Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.