Well, the so-called peace summit with North Korea has come and gone. And as anyone with a scintilla of intellect could’ve predicted, Trump made a fool of himself.
Basically, dictator Kim Jong Un ran rings around the wannabe dictator. He suckered Trump into giving him legitimacy on the world stage, sidestepped any substantive discussion of Kim’s human rights abuses and agreed to suspend or end U.S. military exercises with allied South Korea. In return, the supreme deal-maker got squat: No specific North Korean commitments to surrender any nuclear weapons, no timetable, no verification process.
Trump lauded Kim as “very talented.” That may or may not be true, but compared to the sap-in-chief, Kim is indeed a Mensa genius.
The press asked Trump whether he trusts Kim. Trump said yes. Then he said something truly revealing: “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
Indeed he will. He’ll likely blame Obama or Hillary or the “deep state.” But it was refreshing to hear him acknowledge, in rare moment of candor, his instinctive refusal to admit error or take responsibility for anything.
This remark was equally revealing: “They have great beaches (in North Korea). You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’” Alec Baldwin didn’t say that. The Onion didn’t say that. Trump himself said that — and it explains a lot. He views his sham presidency as a massive business opportunity. If he makes nice to Kim, with or without denuclearization, maybe Kim will let him build a few hotels and beach resorts. Something terrific, located far from the gulags.
Which brings us to Trump’s supreme remark. In praise of Kim, he said this: “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”
Remember when Republicans used to condemn anti-democratic regimes that abused human rights? Remember when they assailed Obama for talking to Cuba — which they denounced as “a concession to tyranny?” That was so four years ago. Now they sit in silence, abetting Trump’s fetishistic love of dictators, gargling his snake oil.
Trump wants what Kim has — public spectacles of “love” and “fervor.” If only Trump didn’t have to deal with pesky checks and balances, constitutional restraints, and freedom of the press, he could fully unleash his id and do what Kim routinely does to ensure that “love” and “fervor.” Here’s the gist of what Kim does, according to a massive 2014 report by the United Nations:
“Inmates are imprisoned, usually for life, in camps without ever having been brought before a judge … They have never been charged, convicted or sentenced… (Many) are incarcerated based solely on the principle of guilt by family association. Some are even born prisoners… The living conditions in the political prison camps are calculated to bring about mass deaths. Forced to carry out grueling labour, inmates are provided food rations that are so insufficient that many inmates starve to death…
“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution… the forcible transfer (and) the enforced disappearance of persons and … knowingly causing prolonged starvation. (These crimes) resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the twentieth century.”
Trump was too besotted with the “fervor” for Kim to care a whit about how that “fervor” is manufactured. He demanded no concessions from Kim, on human rights or demilitarization, and he got none. He betrayed our democratic values, got played for a sucker, and got nothing substantive in return. (He doesn’t need a verification process, because, in his words, “I have one of the great memories of all time.”)
Remember Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, when he claimed that countries around the world were laughing at us? Well, mission accomplished. Rest assured that Trump’s sponsor in Russia, and his dictatorial counterparts the world over, are laughing at us now.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.