Sunday, November 17, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He joked about North Korea's call for Joe Biden's murder, apparently in the hopes that it would earn him some points with Kim Jong-un.

North Korea's state-controlled media said that 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden was a "rabid dog" who should be "beaten to death with a stick." It's not clear exactly what Biden did to offend Kim Jong-un, but the former vice-president—like virtually everyone in either party besides Trump—has been frank about calling out the atrocities committed by the North Korean dictator.

Kim has no power to act on his threat, but a nuclear-armed rogue state making a death threat against an American citizen—much less a potential president—would normally provoke some kind of response. For his part, Trump did two things today.

The first was to use the report of the threat as an excuse to insult Biden.

The second, which Trump may have been trying to draw attention away from with his taunt, was to announce via his acting Secretary of Defense that he was making yet another military concession to North Korea as an "act of goodwill." 

Since first meeting with Kim on a peer-to-peer basis last June, Trump has twice altered U.S. military deployments in the region to suit Kim's liking, and ignored North Korea's rapidly accelerated testing of the missiles that would be used to deliver their nuclear stockpile. 

In return, North Korea has made no concessions whatsoever—it hasn't even agreed in principle to reduce its nuclear stockpile in the future—most likely because it doesn't have to. Trump prematurely declared that he'd ended the nuclear threat from North Korea after their first meeting, inadvertently giving Kim—who doesn't have to face re-election—enormous political leverage over Trump, who does. 

That's probably why Trump ended his insults to Biden with a plea for Kim to come back to the negotiating table.

Why does this matter?

  • The President of the United States cannot be this weak in the face of a nuclear threat to the country.
  • Even by Trump's standards, joking about the murder of political enemies to score points with a dictator is pretty awful.