President Trump’s agreement to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has everyone in Washington expressing shock and consternation.
To be fair, Washington was still reeling from his declared intent to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum – the adverse consequences for the U.S. economy, national security, and international trade be damned. Also, Trump’s advisers were still trying to spin him out of legal jeopardy for paying off porn star Stormy Daniels to stay silent about their adulterous affair.
Where’s the contempt?
But instead of shock and consternation, everyone should have been expressing contempt and outrage. Arguably, Trump is using a summit meeting with Kim as a wag-the-dog distraction from all of the political storm clouds gathering over his presidency.
In fact, nothing has defined his presidency quite like Trump agreeing in one meeting to what the person speaking to him says – even when doing so contradicts what he agreed to in a meeting the day before.
He displayed this in glaring fashion just six weeks ago, when he had everyone in Washington either bemoaning or ridiculing the way he flip-flopped on his agreement to sign whatever bipartisan deal senators delivered to provide legal status for illegal immigrants, a.k.a. Dreamers, whose parents brought them into the United States as young children.
The real story is not Trump’s manic, unpredictable, and irresponsible behavior. It’s the Snapchat-like way everyone in Washington continually reacts with shock and consternation to that behavior, then immediately forgets it.
Indeed, only selective amnesia explains why anyone in Washington believing this meeting will amount to anything more than a photo op, which is probably all Trump wants – like an Instagram THOT hoping her latest post will attract millions of “likes.”
Even more predictable than Trump flip-flopping on major issues at the drop of a hat is North Korean leaders making promises they never keep.
Kim will never give up his nuclear weapons. Nothing indicates how useless any agreement to do so would be quite like North Korea’s falling out with South Korea over their unified Olympic flag.
Reports are that North Korea refused to honor its agreement with South Korea to march in the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Paralympics under the same unified flag they marched under for the regular Olympics just weeks ago.
Just flatter him
Unfortunately, like Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and practically every other world leader, Kim knows he only has to flatter Trump to get him to fold like a cheap suit.
And nothing would flatter Trump more than a photo op showing him meeting with Kim, ostensibly to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Trump would pat himself on the back just for being the first U.S. president to meet any North Korean leader and the first world leader to meet Kim.
Incidentally, one of the reasons Barack Obama never met with Kim is that Republicans accused him of treasonous naiveté for even expressing a willingness to do so – if Kim met his preconditions.
The hypocrisy of Republicans praising things they once denounced has become a hallmark of Trump’s presidency.
Exhibit A: praising Trump’s impulsive and doomed framework to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons after denouncing Obama’s comprehensive and shrewd framework to get Iran to not develop them in the first place.
Kim would like nothing more than to show his people that he, not Trump, is the most powerful man in the world. And he clearly believes the optics of him summoning Trump to a summit meeting would do the trick – no matter where it takes place.
Trump can be checked
But Kim is in for a rude awakening if he thinks just stroking Trump’s ego will induce the United States to lift sanctions. Trump is not the dictator he pretends to be, as Putin now realizes. America’s system of checks and balances (in this case Congress and the press) will constrain Trump’s well-documented impulse to betray his country for a historic photo op, idle flattery, or the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.
For example, but for Congress, he would have lifted sanctions on Russia long ago, despite clear and convincing evidence that Russia was (and is) still meddling to undermine democratic institutions in the United States and throughout Europe.
Therefore, no matter what Trump says, Kim will have to ape Muammar Gaddafi (i.e., give up his nukes) before North Korea gets any relief. The Catch-22 is that if Kim does, he’s bound to end up like Gaddafi – dead. That’s why this proposed summit meeting will turn out to be much ado about nothing.
Anthony L. Hall is a native of The Bahamas with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.