The reason great dealmakers don’t openly celebrate a deal, especially one that isn’t complete, is because it shows weakness to the other side. Donald Trump is therefore the weakest dealmaker in recent memory, and his alleged “deal” with Kim Jong-un isn’t a deal at all, made worse by Trump’s frenetic effort to characterize both the deal and Kim himself as the greatest things ever. By the way, the first line of this paragraph about celebrating a deal? Not my words. It was originally tweeted by Trump back in November, 2013. (As they say on social media, there’s always a tweet.)
Let’s be perfectly clear about this “deal.” There is none. Sure, Trump and Kim signed their names to piece of paper containing four bullet points, but there’s absolutely nothing on those two brief pages that commits either side to doing anything. There’s no wording about verification, timetables, numbers or anything resembling an actual set of deal points. For example, the now infamous “Iran Deal” is 18 pages, and that’s just the introductory document. There are six separate “annexes” ranging in length from six to 29 pages. It required four years of intense negotiations with the Iranian government to land on the final document, all of it vetted and compiled by six allied nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).
Trump’s pathetic whatever-this-is with Kim Jong-un reads as if Mike Pompeo and John Bolton drunkenly scribbled it on a Post-It during the red-eye flight from Canada to Singapore. Worse yet, there’s no true sense of what either group said or didn’t say during the pair of meetings. Now, 48 hours after the fact, each side is making claims about the extent of the not-a-deal even though none of what they’re saying has been committed to paper.
Trump, immediately following the meeting, began the process of festooning the hastily-manufactured un-deal by telling reporters that he agreed to end our military exercises with South Korea after the deal was already signed, therefore this out-of-nowhere addition is not even a real commitment. Likewise, the North Korean press, such that it is, reported that Trump agreed to lift sanctions, too, despite also not being part of the fake deal. On that point, it’s possible Trump promised Kim that he’d kill the sanctions, but no one from the administration has confirmed or denied anything about that one.
Ultimately, if you’re thing has been to shit all over the Iran Deal as being shoddy and ill-conceived, you don’t get to ballyhoo the North Korea meeting. From the very beginning of his campaign, Trump pummeled the Iran Deal to the delight of his easily-led fanboys and finally reneged on the terms of the deal last month (seems like forever ago). And then he has the nerve to sign an alleged accord with North Korea even though by any and all measures, it’s far worse and shoddier than the weakest aspects of the Iran Deal.
So, where does this leave us? Clearly both the Trump administration and the Kim regime will do whatever the hell they want. Absolutely nothing is required of them, so either side could walk away at any time rendering the circus sideshow in Singapore entirely moot. Indeed, North Korea has walked away from its pledges in 1985, 1992, 1994, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.
All that said, it’s not difficult to understand Trump’s motive for artificially inflating the importance of the North Korea document. This is what he does. Everything he touches and everything he likes is invariably the most tremendous thing ever. This is how he scams the rubes. If he believes it, then they’ll believe it.
But why is Trump making such a show of praising Kim? Just a few examples out of many more:
- “Well, he is very talented. Anybody who takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it, and run it tough. I don’t say it was nice.”
- It was an “honor” to meet Kim, Trump said. What surprised the American most about his counterpart? “Great personality and very smart—good combination,” he said. “I learned that he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.” He added that Kim was “a worthy negotiator … a very worthy, very smart negotiator.”
- “His country does love him,” he said. “His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor. They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people—that they’re so hard working, so industrious.”
- “They have great beaches,” he said of North Korea. “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’”
- “He’s a rough guy. He has to be a rough guy or he has been a rough person,” Trump told Van Susteren. “But we got along very well. He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.”
- “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it,” he said. “But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.”
- “He was a strong guy, he has a very good personality, he’s funny and he’s a very strategic kind of a guy. Very impressive.”
Jesus H. Christ. Trump has never been this publicly effusive about his own male children. Why Kim? It’s the same as always. Kim and his regime know that Trump is an extraordinarily needy man who desperately wants people to like him. So, as part of their Singapore strategy, they were courteous and kind to Trump, triggering the president to form the DC chapter of the Kim Jong-un fan club. And yeah, celebrating as often as possible.
It’s no mystery why Trump is doing what he’s doing, but what’s truly soul-crushing is the lack of outrage in reaction to his praise, given Kim’s atrocities against his own people. Crimes against humanity against political prisoners, specifically. Here’s some of the handywork of the man who Trump referred to as “strong/good/funny/strategic/impressive” via the International Bar Association’s war crimes tribunal:
- prisoners tortured and killed on account of their religious affiliation, with officials instructed ‘to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries’;
- a prisoner’s newborn baby, fed to guard dogs and killed;
- an abortion induced by three men standing on a wooden plank placed on a pregnant prisoner’s stomach;
- a female prisoner losing consciousness after enduring a beating designed to trigger premature labour, with prison officials killing her baby before she could regain consciousness;
- a prisoner raped by a security officer, after which the officer pushed a wooden stick inside her vagina and beat her lower body, resulting in her death within a week;
- the deliberate starvation, malnutrition, overwork and death of countless prisoners, including between 1,500–2,000 prisoners, mostly children, who are believed to have died each year from malnutrition in one camp alone, with many other prisoners beaten to death for failing to meet production quotas;
- a soldier supervising a forced labour site rolling a log down a steep mountainside, killing ten prisoners as they were carrying logs up the mountain;
- routine public executions of prisoners, carried out in front of both children and adults, designed to subdue the prison population;
- the execution of starving prisoners found digging for edible plants on a mountainside;
- the beating to death of a prisoner for hiding stolen corn in his mouth.
For the record, Trump told Chris Matthews that women who have abortions should be imprisoned. But Kim, who’s tortured pregnant women and fed their babies to dogs, is “strong/good/funny/strategic/impressive.” Worse, his allegedly anti-abortion disciples agree.
Weak, yes. Unforgivable and irredeemable, also yes. Trump has bungled and botched his way into elevating a crackpot dictator to the level of world power, endowing with praise and recognition a dictator who does all of the above to his people for merely criticizing the Kim government. Not only are we less safe following this meeting, but we should keep an extra close eye on Trump’s actions. If Kim is such a wonderful man despite all of his terrible behavior, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Trump to sink to that level, too, especially after his Red Hats have bought into Trump’s unapologetic endorsement of the North Korean despot.