Sunday, March 11, 2018
Trump's Unconventional Diplomacy, Kim Jong-un, and the President's Popularity
THE REAL NEWS ABOUT THE TRUMP MEETING WITH KIM JONG-UN. Last Thursday, President Trump announced he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before the end of May to see North Korea will abandon its nuclear ambitions. It was South Korea’s national security advisor Chung Eui-yong made the announcement during a news conference outside the White House after meeting with Trump administration officials. Chung said the North Korean leader has expressed his "eagerness to meet with President Trump as soon as possible." Chung led a South Korean delegation earlier last week on a historic trip to Pyongyang, and the envoys became the first South Korean officials to meet with Kim since he took power in 2011. On Tuesday, the South Korean delegation announced that Kim told them he is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning nuclear weapons and that he would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while engaged in talks. The Trump administration and lawmakers have been very cautious about Kim's surprise invitation, equally expressing hope that talks can happen and skepticism at Kim’s sincerity. Trump had preceded the announcement Thursday night to reporters at the White House, characterizing an about-to-be-made announcement as "major." The President told ABC News's Jonathan Karl when asked if the announcement was about negotiations : "It's almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit." • As we have come to expect, the White House insiders immediately began building fences around the President's decision. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the US will require North Korea to take “concrete and verifiable steps” before President Trump attends an announced sit down with Kim Jong-un. The White House had not previously said that there would be any preconditions for the talks when it announced late Thursday that the President would be open to meeting with the North Korean leader in the next few months. But, Sanders said : “This meeting won't take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea,” although Sanders did not specify what promises must be kept or what steps North Korea must take for the planned meeting to go through. Sanders said Friday that "they" expect North Korea’s actions and rhetoric to be aligned if the President is to sit down with Kim. Reporters pressed Sanders on whether it was possible that the meeting might fall through, and Sanders answered : “A lot of things are possible. I'm not going to walk through every hypothetical that could exist in the world. But I can tell you that the President has accepted that invitation on the basis that we have concrete and verifiable steps.” Since that episode, Trump has been tweeting that while sanctions will remain in place on North Korea until there is “permanent denuclearization” and that planned military exercises between the US and South Korea will continue as planned, the meeting will happen. Period. • • • ANOTHER TRUMP DIPLOMATIC VICTORY. While the mainstream media and most of the world have called Trump's aggressive words to Kim Jong-un dangerous and likely to start a nuclear war, just the opposite seems to be unrolling. American Thinker's Thomas Lifson wrote on Friday : "Once again, President Trump has embarrassed the diplomatic and political establishment by succeeding where they have failed for decades. The surprise announcement yesterday outside the Oval Office by South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong that Kim Jong-un is seeking a meeting with President Trump 'as soon as possible' is a strong indication that President Trump has already won the first step toward fixing the problem he inherited from his predecessors in the Oval Office." Lifson sees three easons for the Kim request and its vindication of Trump's policy of ratcheting up sanctions and military pressure, up to and including interdiction of shipping into North Korean harbors. first, says Lifson : "Kim is the one making the request, and he is doing so with some urgency. As anyone who understands the dynamics of negotiation understands, this places Kim in the position of supplicant. The current situation is unacceptable to him, which means he needs something -- almost certainly relaxation of the sanctions that are crippling North Korea (unlike previous sanctions that they were able to work around with the help of China, which evidently has followed through in pledges negotiated by Trump to cut off North Korea from such help). North Korea has made a concession before the talks: halting missile launches and nuclear tests." Second : "North Korea has dropped is usual demand that the US and South Korea halt their scheduled joint military exercises as a condition for talking. Those exercises were postponed in honor of the recent Winter Olympics but will resume. The exercises not only sharpen the ability of the two nations' militaries to work together, but also mass a considerable force within striking distance of North Korea, which is perceived as a threat, carrying the possibility of a sneak attack." And, third : "President Trump is the first occupant of the Oval Office to apply the famous definition of insanity attributed to Einstein -- that it is 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results' -- to North Korea's drive to become a nuclear power. The bipartisan political establishment has absolutely failed to restrain North Korea from developing a nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it to the United States, and now, as that country on the brink of realizing its dream, President Trump has tried something different. And he has shown results." • Lifson compares the Trump strategy to Bill Clinton's "farcical failure to halt North Korea's nuclear program with billions of dollars of bribes," saying the comparison could not be starker and saying that the Clinton bribes were a lot like those of Neville Chamberlain with Hitler. • BUT, with the rest of the world, Lifson is cautious : "Now, make no mistake: there is no guarantee that the forthcoming talks will be successful. But the framework is far more favorable than for any other previous negotiations with the Norks. They must realize that Trump is a different kind of President from the ones they have been able to lie to and extort and bamboozle while they keep going toward an effective nuclear strike force capability. All of the many critics who fretted that President Trump could blunder our way into nuclear war have egg on their faces." • • • THE TRUMP STRATEGY. Most experts are saying that there is every reason to expect the talks President Trump has agreed to hold with Kim Jong-un to fail, but Lifson reminds us that "experts agreed that Trump's quest for the presidency was a laughable impossibility." • We know that Trump will be dealing with a cruel, ruthless and cunning madman in Kim Jong-un. Kim is the dictator of a totalitarian regime founded on fear and the ruthless supression of all human rights and the hermetically sealed enslavement of an entire people. So, we cannot expect that Kim has suddenly seen the light. Claudia Rosett of PJ Media outlines the shrinking box the Kim dynasty is stuck in : "The totalitarian character of the regime itself – a system built on brute force, threats and lies – ought to warn us that Kim's goal in proposing a summit is not to surrender to maximum pressure, but to deflate it, via assorted diplomatic stunts. All the better for Kim to regroup and carry on with North Korea's predatory projects, global rackets and nuclear missile program. (Forget the idea that Kim might be suddenly looking to repent [of] his murderous ways and scrap his totalitarian system; odds are, his own grotesquely abused citizenry would seize the chance to kill him.)" Rosett says "there is no diplomatic deal that would deliver any serious chance of ending North Korea's nuclear program....there is no way that any deal can be genuinely monitored and enforced from outside. North Korea can let inspectors in, but it can just as readily kick them out. North Korea can promise to shutter its weapons-producing facilities, but it can then unshutter them, or secretly build new ones, and then dare the US to do anything about it. That's how one nuclear deal after another has failed. Repeatedly North Korea has cheated and walked away refreshed and refortified, its pockets stuffed with whatever plunder it can carry from the bargaining table." If that analysis sounds like the hole President Obama dug for the West with his Iran nuclear deal, that's because it is the same problem re-presenting itself. BUT, there are two big differences that could help President Trump. • One difference is the internal vulnerability of the Kim regime. Kim stays in power only through brutal force and displays of personal and military power. While the Ayatollah and his Revolutionary Guard suppress political dissent ruthlessly, Kim has had to kill members of his own family to stay in power. He IS the state in North Korea, and he surely has no allusions about the desires of those around him to murder him and take power for themselves. He survives by usingr extreme measures, such as poisoning his brother while he was in self-exile, and by keeping the NK populace ignorant of conditions outside of North Korea. But, the prop of ignorance that worked so well for his grandfather and father is crumbling fast. Reports of the widespread availability of video players and smartphones, many dropped into North Korea by balloon drops or smuggled across the Yalu River from China, allow North Koreans to see that their South Korean neighbors enjoy a lifestyle they can only dream of, while they are subsisting on international relief shipments from Christian groups and foraging for food, even eating grass, to sustain themsleves. It cannot be lost on North Koreans that the military was recently given a day off to forage for food. Kim took a chance in sending his delegation to the Olympic Games in Seoul. The North Korean ruling elite of senior military and government officials, their families, and maybe the cheerleader sex slaves who charmed NBC so deeply in Seoul would number under a thousand people, but they have now seen for themselves just how suppressed and humiliated they are. As Rosett says : "That does not make for a stable or long-lived regime." • The second difference is Kim Jong-un. He went to school in Switzerland and has far more familiarity with the ways of the Western word than either his father or his grandfather, and, says Lifson, "he might find that safe and reliable nation a comfortable refuge for him and his cronies for the rest of his and their days." Lifson is including the thousand who went to Seoul, whon Lifson rightly says : "could easily be accommodated by a safe haven nation, particularly if accompanied by a few billion dollars for care and feeding. China might be another location where Kim could find refuge and comfort. China does not want war in North Korea and does want a denuclearized Korean peninsula and especially does not want a nuclear Japan. That is its incentive to cooperate." There are also reports that Kim's health is not good, and thath is sister is in the ascendanct because he is not up to the daily strain of hir role. All of this would suggest, according to Lifson, that : "he is not necessarily enjoying the position of dictator surrounded by people who might assassinate him at any moment. In fact, my reading of him is that he is a voluptuary, more concerned about first survival, and after that, his pleasures. • • • AND THERE IS PRESIDENT TRUMP. President Trump understands all of this as well as anyone -- and better than any of his predecessors in the White House because he is actually using a strategy that has yielded prelominary results. • While most anlaysts are wringing their hands, as they always do even when Trumo has clearly won with one of his non-conventional approaches to diplomacy, Lifson says : "My strong supposition is that he is thinking of offers that have been 'outside the box' of conventional diplomacy. Look at Lifson's second article for American Thinker last Friday titled "Trump takes on the 'impossible' task of denuclearizing North Korea" : "First of all, he is going to look Kim Jong-un straight in the eye and tell him he faces death via nuclear annihilation or other means if no deal results. Trump's "stick" is far more believable than that of any previous American president thanks to the relentless work of Trump-haters, who have told the world he is a reckless madman. Trump has often used his enemies' tactics against him to his own advantage. President Reagan used a similar tactic, pretending to be the madman his critics called him to stare down the USSR." That, for starters, will be the Trump whom Kim has come to respect as a worthy adversary. But, I think Trump will also use another tactic -- he will treat Kim as a "son." Trump will take him aside and tell him how good the world outside North Korea can be and how Trump would like to protect and shelter him. Trump will appeal to the Kim who has never really known either a "father" or a "protector." This makes Lifson's suggestion that Trump could offer a "safe haven in a country acceptable to Kim" seem realistic. • • • BUT, BOY IS THERE A LOT OF FREE ADVICE. • TheHill says "President Trump is making a serious roll of the dice with his decision to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un." • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on Friday morning, suggesting that there is a distinction between 'talks' and 'negotiations' : “we’re a long ways from negotiations....President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim Jong Un when conditions were right and the time was right. And I think in the President’s judgment, that time has arrived now. So there’s no -- in my comments yesterday, I was indicating comments about negotiations, but we’ve been open for talks for some time.” • Bruce Klingner, a former CIA division chief for the Koreas who is now at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says : “It’s really a high-stakes poker game, and you can either win big or perhaps get taken to the cleaners.” • Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, said both Trump and Kim risk looking foolish if they don’t walk away with something : “There’s something that’s going to be achieved if they get together or it’s not going to happen. It’s too much of a risk for both sides.” • House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said : “We can pursue more diplomacy as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce. Remember, North Korean regimes have repeatedly used talks and empty promises to extract concessions and buy time. North Korea uses this to advance its nuclear and missile programs. We’ve got to break this cycle.” • Vice President Pence said : “The North Koreans are coming to the table despite the United States making zero concessions and, in close coordination with our allies, we have consistently increased the pressure on the Kim regime. Our resolve is undeterred and our policy remains the same: all sanctions remain in place and the maximum pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes concrete, permanent, and verifiable steps to end their nuclear program.” • CNN's Erin Burnett had some startling words for the President, should he pull off denuclearizing the country : "Just an extraordinary evening and, of course, opening the door to the big question. If President Trump could truly solve this problem, that would be going down as a great President. There is no getting around that." [CNN must have fined Erin a month's salary for that pro-Trump statement.] • Peter Bakerin the New York Times tried to mae Trump a carbon copy of Kim : "In his penchant for unpredictability, his willingness to shift at a moment's notice and his sense that only he can make the important decisions, Mr. Trump may find a kindred spirit in the man who would sit across the table, Kim Jong-un of North Korea." • Samantha Vinograd, of the Obama national security advisor's staff that did nothing to stop North Korea's nuke program, is dead certain that there simply is not enough time, a view from within the box of failed diplomacy. What she really meant was that if Obama & Co. couldn’t accomplish anything, neither can Trump. • • • TRUMP IS WINNING THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF AMERICA. The new Marist poll finds that President Trump's popularity has reached a new high at 42% approval, the highest it's been since he took office. According to TheHill reported that Trump's approval rating rose from the 38% he received in the poll last month. And the percentage of Americans who strongly approve of Trump held at 24% from last month’s survey, an all-time high for the President. At the same time, Trump's disapproval rate, now at 50%, fell four percentage points from 54%. Something has changed. And better still, these good numbers for Trump are a trend." Anyone but a ProgDem can understand why Trump's polls are up -- the Russia obsession of the ProgDem propagandist press; job creation just hit the 300,000 mark, a number not seen in about a decade; taxes went down a lot for almost everyone; factories and their jobs are returning to the US; workforce participation is growing. And the Wall Street Journal reports that "US household net worth has pushed farther into record territory." • The American Thinker wrote : "Get a load of Axios's headline on one of its top features for today : 'New peril for moderate Dems: Voters happy with Trump's economy.' Peril? We're supposed to be concerned because these people face the prospect of losing their grip on power? No great blue wave? Because they had their chance to create a good economy through free market reforms, and they blew it? What kind of political party gets thrilled about economic bad news and upset at economic good news? Just Democrats. These clowns held nearly all of the political power dating from 2006 through the Obama years and had all the opportunity in the world to enact free market reforms such as President Trump has. Cut taxes, cut regulations, cut bureaucrats? They could have done that, because free market ideas belong to anyone who wants to give them a go, not just Republicans, yet somehow they didn't. And now they're unhappy about how numbers work. Do they really think voters should love them despite the bad economy they created? And that bad economies exist in some kind of void only because there are Republicans, not because of leftist policies? Or that Democrat welfare-shoveling in its vision of Big State is preferable to the satisfaction of having a job?...I've got news for them: Trump's numbers are up and they are going to keep going up so long as he keeps sipping from that free market goblet. The way for Democrats to get such a trend in numbers and raise their popularity is to drink from that same goblet, and as the phrase goes, steal Trump's thunder. Since they won't, well, too bad." • Before last Tuesday's primary election in Texas, the MSM was chock-a-block with reports that Texas was likely to become a Blue ProgDem state. Well, Consider this. Senator Ted Cruz received more votes in the 2018 Republican Primary election than the entire turnout of voters in the Democratic Primary. As Breitbart put it : "The results shed a new perspective on the media-hyped “blue wave” stories from the weeks leading up to election day. In the Republican Primary of 2018, Senator Cruz received 1,317,450 votes in a race with four challengers. His Democrat opponent, US Representative Beto O’Rourke only received 641,311 votes against two opponents. Figures from the Secretary of State’s office show that just over one million voters turned out in the Democrat Primary in general across Texas. Cruz alone exceeded the entire Democratic voter turnout by nearly 300,000 votes." • And, TheHill reported last Thursday that : "Five Senate Democrats trail their GOP challengers and would lose their bids for reelection were the 2018 midterms held today, according to polls from SurveyMonkey. New polls published Thursday morning in Axios show Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) would all lose reelection to GOP challengers were voters to head to the polls this week. With the exception of McCaskill, who faces Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), the Senators were polled against generic, unnamed GOP challengers. The President's approval rating hovers above 50% in those states, while the five Democrats all suffer from approval ratings below the 50% line. At the top of the list is Tester, who trails an unnamed GOP challenger by 13% in Montana, a state where President Trump enjoys an approval rating of 58%, higher than his 43% national average. The two least vulnerable Democrats in the poll were Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who both enjoy at least a 10-point gap between them and their announced challengers." • • • DEAR READERS, there is no reason to believe that President Trump's love affair with the real America is over, or even fading. His rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday evening was the Trump who won the election in 2106, and he is far from finished. His policies and strategies are dancing around the ProgDems who can only lament that voters are no longer believing them. Wonder why, don't you. Here is one reason --Trump always keeps his promises. A Trump Organization executive says the company has donated $151,470 in foreign government profits at its hotels and similar businesses last year to the US Treasury. The voluntary donation fulfills the company's pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage while Donald Trump is President. The US Treasury has confirmed receipt of the check. • Got to love Donald Trump. And, with the Trump-Kim meeting coming up on the radar, there is a left-field observation from Thomas Lifson, who likes to think "outside the box" himself -- Dennis Rodman. Lifson wrote : "I know, I know : he appears to be a comic figure, but consider the fact that Kim Jong-un invited him and apparently spent enjoyable time together with him. And also consider that Rodman was a guest on Trump's reality television show and therefore has a genuine basis for telling Kim about Trump's true nature, based on his personal experience with the man. Would courtside season tickets to Lakers games in perpetuity, seated next to Rodman, be a lure? I don't know." • Whereas I tend to think of Rodman as the clown in a pink tutu and wig dancing around on an NBA court for fun, he was, after all, the right hand of Michael Jordan -- no mean feat. And, my sister never fails to tell me that Dennis Rodman is "crazy like a fox." • One thing we can all count on is that President Trump has his strategy for Kim Jong-un all lined up. He may be nodding as the world gives him conventional advice, but he knows that what he is doing has worked and why, and he will 'keep on keeping on' as he always has -- shredding the tools of conventional diplomacy in order to try something new that just might work where everything else has failed.