Don’t kill those Nobel Peace Prize hopes just yet.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is eager for talks to resume between President Donald J. Trumpet and North Korean Supreme Leader “L’il Kim” Jong un and pointed to the cancellation of U.S.-South Korean military exercises as an act of good faith. If I were Moon, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
When we saw the bromancers in Hanoi last week, they were in the rocky second phase of the relationship, with the art of the dealer walking out of the talks, leaving a working lunch unattended. Perhaps El Presidente thought he was back in Washington D.C. negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the shutdown or dealing with one of the subcontractors he used to fire in New York. Or maybe this is just the way of “lovers.” You know, he wrote me beautiful letters. We fell in love. And afterward, it’s nothing but he said, he said. That sort of thing.
But could something else have been afoot? The sneaking suspicion that Trumpet was distracted — something that’s easy for him to become — by his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s excoriating testimony was confirmed by the Don himself.
“For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk,’ ” he tweeted. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”
Of course, had the liar and fraudster not once been in service of Donnie Two Scoops, he wouldn’t have had anything to be distracted by, now would he?
On “Amanpour and Company” Feb. 27, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (“Vietnam”) told host Christiane Amanpour that Trump’s trip to Vietnam in the midst of the Cohen canary singing Congregational hearings was reminiscent of the Watergate hearings in the midst of the Vietnam War’s endgame.
Here’s a better analogy: Nixon went to China, which he succeeded in reopening to the West, only to be shot down by his own insecurity and the resultant Watergate at home. Trump went to Vietnam — 50 years after the U.S. military draft first “invited” him — only to be shot down at home and abroad. The circle is tightening. Even some of the Repubs are opposed to his emergency declaration for the border wall. Remember the wall?
Meanwhile, Trump threw Otto Warmbier’s memory and parents under the bus, saying he believes that Supreme Leader Rocket Man had nothing to do with Warmbier’s vegetative state and subsequent death after the young American was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room in 2016. But then Trump thinks Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had nothing to do with the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
And he thinks his BFF, Russian President Vladimir “Vladdie the Laddie Rootin’ Tootin’” Putin, had nothing to do with meddling in the 2016 American presidential election. For such a self-styled sharpie and tough guy, Trump is surprisingly impressionable and meek when it comes to his fellow strongmen. I’m surprised he’s not in bed, so to speak, with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who’s starving his country to stay in power. But then again, maybe it’s not surprising. When you’re a narcissist, you’re never wrong, and you’re susceptible to flattery. You need that adulation fix, so you don’t like confrontation and indeed seek to grease whatever squeaky wheel is in front of you. Thus, you tend not to think through the agendas of others. You tend not to think, period.
Indeed, nearly lost in all this is the triumph of emotionalism and gut reactions over rationality and intellectual preparation. America has long been on a collision course with stupidity, confusing the aspirational with the elite, allowing failing schools to slide, pooh-poohing the arts and humanities and trading true visual literacy for selfie nation. The result has been a total failure of reasoning and of imagination as well. What grown man who purports to be leader of the free world talks about a dictator as if he were a boyfriend and mauls the flag, as Trump did at the CPAC meeting? He thinks he’s cute and funny, an entertainer. But he’s not on reality TV anymore.
Say what you want about Nixon but he was intelligent and experienced. At least he had some gravitas. Whereas Trump has become a Vietnam War joke, a lost leader whose countrymen would, in many instances, rather believe Leader Kim’s interpretation of the — for now — end of the affair.