On his Wednesday night program, Fox News host Sean Hannity spoke in grand tones about the possibilities in front of President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as they plowed through their summit in Hanoi. “When you’re talking about hitting the continental United States, Boston, New York, with a nuclear weapon and what we were hearing before the first summit, this would be — if we can get this thing accomplished, this would be major history,” said Hannity.
Minor history happened instead. The discussions broke down over economic sanctions, as The Post explains:
Kim said he was prepared in principle to denuclearize, and Trump said an agreement was “ready to sign.” But Trump said the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the United States lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility, which still would have left Pyongyang with a large arsenal of missiles and warheads.
Whereas Hannity said, “We do expect that there’s going to be a joint signing coming up later tonight,” there was, in fact, no joint signing. Perhaps Trump’s refusal to sign off on Kim’s demands represents a prudent decision. “We had some options, but at this time we decided not to do any of the options. Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” said Trump.
Yet the president came away from a much-publicized summit with no agreement. Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press commented on how Trump’s all-or-nothing approach can veer toward nothing:
Though Trump had no agreement, he had Hannity. He’ll always have Hannity.
“Mr. President, thank you ... If you could elaborate a little bit more: We have some history. President Reagan walked away in Reykjavík. A lot of condemnation at the time, and it ended up working out very well in the end for the United States. Was this mostly your decision, and what message would you want to send Chairman Kim, as he’s listening to this press conference, about the future and your relationship?”
Trump’s response started with something of a brushoff. “I don’t want to say it was my decision, because what purpose is that?” Consider that the Daily Beast has reported that Trump has mocked his 24/7 propaganda mouthpiece.
Who knows — maybe Trump didn’t fully appreciate Hannity’s invocation of a parallel between his diplomatic course and that of Reagan, an icon for modern-day Republican politicians. Recall that Trump was around for the Reagan administration, though he wasn’t too impressed with some of its work. Michael D’Antonio wrote in Politico Magazine about how Trump peddled his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” by speaking out about political issues. Part of the appeal was to criticize Washington for failing on diplomacy:
[T]o promote the book, Trump launched a political campaign that tore into Reagan’s record, including his willingness to stand up to the Soviet Union. Advised by the notorious Roger Stone, a Nixon-era GOP trickster, in 1987 Trump took out full-page ads in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post blasting Reagan and his team.
Nor is that all: Trump held himself out as a replacement for Reagan’s arms-control negotiators, whom he considered soft. Or, better punctuated, he “considered” them soft. As D’Antonio points out, Trump’s “pseudo-campaign generated invaluable amounts of free publicity and contributed greatly to the sales of “The Art of the Deal.”
So perhaps Hannity needs to become a more perspicacious sycophant. No more comparing Trump with Reagan on arms-control issues!