Sunday, April 28, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He figured the rest of the world should just let him handle North Korea.

Other than a brief appearance by phone on a Fox News program this morning (in which he repeated his claim that the deadly dangerous journey of Central American asylum-seekers was "like Disneyland"), Trump has laid low. As usual for his long weekends at Mar-a-Lago, he played golf, but uncharacteristically he stayed off Twitter entirely.

However, he did send his national security advisor John Bolton out to make the case that Trump alone should be given the job of dealing with North Korea—and that Russia and China and South Korea and Japan and the rest of the world should back off.

It's no mystery as to why Trump feels this way. After being publicly embarrassed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their most recent meeting—another summit that had the United States treating the dictator of a rogue nuclear state as an equal to its own president—Trump has had to endure the humiliation of seeing Russia's Vladimir Putin host a much more successful diplomatic visit with Kim.

Trump has been at a major disadvantage in his dealings with Kim precisely because he has so obviously been treating the summits as a chance to score political points at home—which gives Kim direct leverage over Trump's presidency. Even after the fiasco of the second summit meeting, Trump has been publicly anxious to set up a third one.

This left Bolton without much in the way of a specific argument as to why Trump alone should be given the opportunity to deal with North Korea, other than to point out under other multilateral talks, that "Kim or his father have gotten economic relief and then somehow have never gotten around to that commitment to denuclearize.”

It's true things have been different under Trump's unilateral "negotiation" with Kim: this time, North Korea has gotten economic relief and military concessions in exchange for no agreement to denuclearize.

Why should I care about this?

  • A "negotiator" who doesn't understand that other countries will act in their own best interests isn't very good at his job.
  • The nuclear security of the United States (and the rest of the world) is more important than the president's political needs.