Guy W. Farmer: Was President Trump ‘played’ in Singapore?
As we know, President Trump thinks he’s the world’s greatest dealmaker and the greatest U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. There’s some doubt about those extravagant claims, however, after Trump met with brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore earlier this month to negotiate possible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a noble goal.
Some of us think Trump got “played” by the wily young dictator, who’s smarter than he looks. Don’t judge Kim by his bad haircut and baggy outfits because Pyongyang isn’t a center of sartorial splendor. But seriously, and to the surprise of no one, Trump declared victory after his brief visit to Singapore (“North Korea is no longer a threat”) and is probably thinking about nominating himself for the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have just begun under the able direction of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who runs circles around Trump when it comes to negotiating with world leaders.
In fact it was Pompeo, not Trump, who negotiated the carefully worded agreement that came out of the Singapore Summit. You can bet that agreement was ready to be signed before Trump landed in Singapore. So what did Trump actually accomplish during his meeting with Kim? To give the devil his due, he established some kind of a relationship with Kim and started a long and complicated negotiating process; however, we could have done without the glad-handing and back-slapping with a cruel dictator who has murdered tens of thousands of his own people, including several family members.
I cringed when I heard Trump say he was “honored” to meet Kim and how he wishes Americans would treat him the way North Koreans treat their “dear leader.” “He loves his people,” Trump said. In fact, he loves some of them to death, according to news reports. While Kim kills those who disagree with him, Trump only fires off angry tweets aimed at his many critics.
Trump also has an incredibly short attention span, which means he’s already moved on from Singapore to confront other high-profile issues like immigration and trade wars. He thinks he won a great victory in Singapore and it’s up to Pompeo and career diplomats to pick up the pieces after his clumsy bull in a China shop performance at the summit. Thank God for diplomacy — what’s left of it anyway.
As The Economist noted, “North Korea has promised disarmament again and again over the past 30 years, only to renege each time after pocketing generous inducements.” Kim got a Trump promise to suspend U.S.-South Korean military exercises while our president, a former reality TV star, chalked up high TV ratings and a couple of friendly photo ops with the dictator. The Economist said Trump “put showmanship first.” Just one question: Is anyone surprised?
For its part the Washington Post, which delights in trashing our mercurial president, reported “Trump nearly upended the summit with abrupt changes.” According to the Post, “After arriving in Singapore on Sunday, an antsy and bored Trump urged his aides to demand that the meeting with Kim be pushed up a day to Monday. ‘We’re here now,’ the president allegedly said. ‘Why can’t we just do it?’”
Ultimately, the Post reported. Pompeo and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders “persuaded Trump to stick with the original plan” in order to guarantee wall-to-wall TV coverage in the U.S. First things first.
And finally, Trump told Kim about potential real estate deals on desolate North Korean beaches. “You could have the best hotels in the world right there,” Trump said. Let’s hope for the best.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.