Trump now gives the back of his hand to queries about starvation and forced labor camps: All he has to go by is “today and by yesterday and by a couple weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.” He defines the Cold War term “useful idiot,” a Westerner easily mesmerized by propaganda and a willing dissembler of tyrant’s lies.
Before Wednesday morning’s tweet, former acting CIA director John McLaughlin predicted, “After all, Trump, who seems to live mostly in the moment and shows little understanding of causality, may simply have been seduced by the prospect of a great TV moment — which, let’s face it, it was. And he will spin that like a carnival barker in the coming days.” (Apologies to carnival barkers.) He explained:
In round one, Kim racked up win after win. After years of isolation and well-deserved shunning by the international community, he got a coming-out party hosted by the leader of the world’s greatest power proclaiming he’s “honored” to meet him. Kim’s biggest score, though, was Trump’s pledge to end U.S.–South Korean military exercises on the peninsula and a presidential pledge to consider ending the U.S. troop presence. This is something North Korea and China have wanted for years, and it is an absolutely stunning giveaway of U.S. leverage with no price asked. Trump will regret this.
Like my colleague Josh Rogin, McLaughlin judged this as a major win for China. “Not only has China wanted to end U.S. military exercises and presence on the peninsula, but it also wants to weaken ties between the United States and its South Korean ally,” McLaughlin wrote. “Further, it wants to reduce U.S. influence in Asia, something on which Trump got a head start by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership his first week in office.” He added that “by calling the U.S. exercises ‘provocative,’ Trump used language Pyongyang and Beijing normally use, and they will throw this back at him if Washington ever wants to start these again. I’m convinced that China counseled Kim on this strategy and on how to deal with Trump in the two meetings Kim has had with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in recent weeks.”
Now the question is whether both Democrats and Republicans will denounce the president’s crazy talk by making clear that the United States condemns Kim’s human right atrocities, should continue its military exercises with South Korea, should leave U.S. troops in South Korea for the foreseeable future and should push forward with sanctions. Republicans looked foolish on Tuesday tripping over themselves to commend the president. Now they risk reinforcing his delusional thinking and impairing American security. As Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) gamely admitted, these Republicans are so terribly scared to “poke the bear” that I remain doubtful they will do anything.