Reality Show Summit, or Realpolitik?

By Dave Smith, Senior Contributor, USDR.

“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 excuse.” – President Donald J. Trump

For better or worse – or perhaps a mixture of both? – history was made when US President Donald Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for a summit meeting in Singapore on June 12 and agreed to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”. It was the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the two nations, breaking with over a half-century of Cold War and post-Cold War brinksmanship. Since Trump’s election, the interaction between the two nations’ leaders included a flurry of bizarre, insulting tweets where Trump referred to Kim as “short and fat” and “rocket man”, but did express the desire for friendship between the two.

Critics of putting faith in the agreement with North Korea have plenty of ammunition: North Korean’s leaders have made promises in the past that were discarded when no longer useful. 

The meeting itself was a Rorschach test of sorts. Two Norwegian lawmakers nominated President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize; various commentators praised the President’s vision and willingness to sit down with Kim. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump “disrupted the status quo”, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “an historic first step”. Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe “highly praise[d]” the President for mentioning abduction of Japanese by North Korea in the meeting.

Since Trump’s election, the interaction between the two nations’ leaders included a flurry of bizarre, insulting tweets where Trump referred to Kim as “short and fat” and “rocket man”, but did express the desire for friendship between the two.

Others were more critical. Unsurprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called the meeting a “reality show summit” and claimed that President Trump gave concessions to North Korea with nothing concrete to show for them – a common refrain among critics. Writer David French criticized the President’s “hubris” in believing that this time North Korea would live up to its agreements. Even some Republicans were looking askance of Trump’s agreement to end war games with South Korea, while others bemoaned giving a notoriously violent “butcher of his own people” the validation on the world stage, and compared speaking with Kim to “trying to hand feed a shark”.

Dave Smith Said That

A particular flashpoint was the breathless, slickly-produced White House video that Trump showed Kim prior to the meeting. With Trump being ever the showman, “Destiny Pictures” produced a montage of soaring rhetoric, dramatic undertones, and calls to action. The video was derided by many as a propaganda piece. One who commended the video for its images, however, was Dr. Kenneth Dekleva, a forensic psychiatrist who worked for the US State Department and has written psychological evaluations of various world leaders for American diplomats and intelligence operations. Appearing on the Michael Smerconish Program, he pointed out several specific themes from the film that he claimed had special symbolism and appeal for Kim, such as the scene where the New York Philharmonic Orchestra is shown playing in Pyongyang and the image of the basketball player dunking.

Writer David French criticized the President’s “hubris” in believing that this time North Korea would live up to its agreements. 

Critics of putting faith in the agreement with North Korea have plenty of ammunition: North Korean’s leaders have made promises in the past that were discarded when no longer useful. Starting with the signing of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985, there followed a 1992 Joint Declaration with South Korea on “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and the 1994 “Agreed Framework” with the United States. In 2000, North Korea signed an agreement to “not launch long-range missiles of any kind”, then in January 2003 announced a withdraw from NPT. While 2005’s “Six Party” talks (China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, USA) brought a pledge to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, only a year later they tested their first nuclear device.

Perhaps this time is different. Kim Jong-un is known to be a fan of celebrities. Is it possible he is star struck by the former reality show star and garish showman?  Or is he biding his time, extracting concessions in return for empty promises? Winston Churchill famously said that “to jaw jaw is always better than to war war.” Whether this case of “jaw jaw” will lead to concrete impacts and progress remains to be seen. Whether President Trump will be looking for excuses in six months is impossible to know. In any case, the summit was definitely a spectacle.

Born in the same county as Davy Crockett in East Tennessee, Dave found his way to Texas where he works in the petrochemical industry. He’s written and spoken about politics on various media outlets including Fox, ABC, and Townhall. He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech with a degree in chemical engineering. Follow Dave on Twitter: @semperlibertas.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.
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