“Watch whether North Korea is asking for things that would make China really happy.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is fine with dialogue between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But the junior senator, who was the Democratic Party’s 2016 vice-presidential nominee, worries how far Trump will go to get a deal. “My worry is that the president might be willing to do a deal that produces some gain on the Korean Peninsula, short-term gain, but at the expense of broader [U.S.] withdrawal from the region,” Kaine told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “That is a significant concern I have. China working with North Korea to work this negotiation in a way that would lead more to Chinese dominance in the region.”
That Trump agreed to meet with Kim in Singapore is already a victory for the North Korean leader. By meeting with the president of the United States, Kim has achieved something that was impossible for his father and grandfather. In addition, he got for the Hermit Kingdom something it had long sought: international recognition as a player on the world stage. It’s an incredible concession to a ruthless ruler.
Still, Kaine believes that “dialogue is better than no dialogue,” and he insisted several times during our sit-down that Congress have a role to play in the North Korea drama. “The White House, if it comes up with a deal, should have to submit it Congress,” Kaine said. “The president should have to bring it back and sell it to Congress.” While he did say he expected the Trump administration to do everything possible to avoid going to Congress, he still believed Congress would serve as a check on any deal.
Kaine is a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, so I had to ask him about the insanity of the Group of Seven gathering and the harsh rhetoric directed toward Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On Fox News, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”
“The Trump administration is filled with people with glass jaws who they love to punch people, but if somebody punches back? They just can’t believe it. They’re crybabies,” Kaine told me. “President Trump can name-call everybody all day long. And somebody gets in his face a little bit and they melt into a pool of lukewarm water.” He added that “the scuffle over the weekend shows how weak the administration is.”
When I read to him the headline of The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest story — “A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch’” — he laughed in amazement. The piece ends with an en even more tart assessment of the so-called Trump doctrine that was told to Goldberg by a friend of the president.
“People criticize [Trump] for being opposed to everything Obama did, but we’re justified in canceling out his policies,” one friend of Trump’s told me. This friend described the Trump Doctrine in the simplest way possible. “There’s the Obama Doctrine, and the ‘F— Obama’ Doctrine,” he said. “We’re the ‘F— Obama’ Doctrine.”
“There is, sadly, in the Trump insecurity, a desire to undo Obama accomplishments even though President Trump doesn’t understand them,” Kaine said before highlighting Trump’s breaking the Iran nuclear deal as an example. “I have never heard him say one thing about the Iran deal to suggest he understands it. Not one. Not one factual thing about the deal.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Kaine talk about criminal-justice reform, the racial demons unleashed by Trump and what he thinks will happen if Trump fires either special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein, or uses his pardon power in the middle of the current investigation.
“I think there are enough Republicans in the Senate who will stand up with to say, ‘You’ve gone too far,’ ” Kaine said. “I do think there are enough senators who will stand to protect this country against an executive gone wild if he starts to use pardon power’s the wrong way.”
Oh, and he’s definitely NOT running for president in 2020.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj
Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast