Mined from the notebooks Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Posted Saturday morning, June 2, 2018.
"The three American prisoners freed from North Korea, Tony Kim, left, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong-chul, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Mr. and Mrs. Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo." Photo credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times.
Are we supposed to be keeping score?
The release of the three prisoners, all American citizens of Korean descent, was a diplomatic victory for Mr. Trump and in some ways the most tangible gesture of sincerity shown by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to improve relations with the United States after nearly seven decades of mutual antagonism.---North Korea Frees American Prisoners, Lifting Hurdle to Nuclear Talks. The New York Times, May 9, 2018.
First off, everybody who knows anything about Korea---and about Trump himself---knows he had very little to do with this. Korean diplomats on both sides have worked it all out. Releasing the Americans is a courtesy on North Korea’s part---a good will gesture USA Today calls it---and a favor they’re doing themselves. They want this issue off the table so the talks can focus on other matters.
Plus they know they have to placate our egomaniac president. This is to assuage his vanity. The North Koreans have given him something to brag about. That always puts him in a good mood.
Calling it a victory for him, beside continuing the media's pernicious habit of seeing everything in terms of winners and losers, implies he's things he's not: knowledgeable about foreign affairs, diplomatic, interested in anything that doesn't make him feel good about himself, competent, and responsible.
And while it’s great that these “wonderful gentleman”---a Trump euphemism for “I can’t be bothered to learn their names”---are coming home, if it can be called a victory, it’s far from a major one, and it doesn’t compensate for the debacles of his trade wars, pulling out of the Paris Agreements, alienating our Western European allies, screwing up the normalization of relations with Cuba, and now the incredible mess he’s making by withdrawing from the Iran deal. This one little victory doesn’t change the fact that his administration’s been a diplomatic disaster. And ten more like it won’t change the fact that he himself is a diplomatic disaster. Let’s not forget how he courted nuclear war by getting into a pissing contest with “Little Rocket Man”. The result of that was to make Kim Jong-un look like the mature, sensible, diplomatic one, the responsible leader of a potential nuclear power successfully dealing with a “mentally deranged dotard.”
It’s journalistic practice to present things done by their administrations as things the presidents have done themselves. But in the past, it could be assumed that a President knew at least in general what was being done in his name. We know that’s not true with Trump. Folks at the New York Times should know it better than anyone. The paper of record has run story after story regaling us readers with inside the White House gossip about what an ignoramus he is about everything. He’s lazy, intellectually and physically, and he’s monstrously vain, so he won’t work at being president and he’s convinced he doesn’t have to. This is a lifelong grifter we’re dealing with. He has never bothered to make himself competent at anything except fleecing people out of their money, which he’s always managed with a bare minimum of effort. His m.o. has been to convince suckers real work is being done while he sits at a desk or ambles about a golf course and counts the money they throw at him. He’s still at it. His presidency is predicated on the same game. Talk confidently as though something wonderful’s happening and the rubes will believe something wonderful’s happening.
Sometimes I wonder if the biggest rubes are members of the political press.