If the president takes a careful approach, a meeting with North Korea’s leader could pay dividends... But less than a day after the announcement, there were already conflicting statements on what obstacles would have to be overcome to make the meeting happen. And the key deal points of any potential breakthrough .. haven’t changed in years: We want them to abandon nuclear weapons; they want us to pull our troops out of South Korea... If he goes through with this, though, the president must treat it as the first step in a painstaking diplomatic project, not a self-aggrandizing photo op... In just over a year as president, Trump has taken us, and our South Korean allies, on a diplomatic roller-coaster ride: from the president’s August “fire and fury” remark, to his October “Little Rocket Man” tweet, to February’s announcement of new sanctions, to Thursday night’s bang-bang North Korean offer (delivered by South Korean envoys) and Trump’s acceptance... He’d have us believe that he’s been playing 3-D chess all along, making moves no one else could even conceive of. But North Korean leaders have always craved the prestige that would come along with a bilateral face-to-face between their leader and an American president.. the president has to avoid derailing the process with inflammatory statements and premature chest-thumping, something he hasn’t always resisted. He needs a serious, experienced negotiating team that includes experts outside his inner circle. Trump fancies himself a negotiator nonpareil. But from firsthand experience, we can tell him that North Korea’s negotiators are well briefed and highly attuned. If you use a wrong word in a verbal exchange, negotiations can take a major detour. Caution is essential at every step... “There is a saying in my country: it takes 100 hacks to take down a tree.” The North Koreans negotiate with patience and deliberation, something Trump must take into account... If he doesn’t want to end up looking like Kim outmaneuvered him, Trump must be prepared to slowly and carefully hammer out a realistic strategy with realistic aims, such as an eventual long-term agreement with strong verification standards and oversight. Before he can do that, here’s what he should consider:.. First, he needs to come up with some new carrots and sticks. He’s used sanctions as a stick, and he’s already given up the best carrot he had: the promise of a meeting, head of state to head of state.
.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated Friday that Trump has made “zero concessions,” but agreeing to meet is a concession. Unless he plans to up the ante by inviting Kim out to Mar-a-Lago for golf in the spring, the president will need a new giveaway that he can dangle in front of Kim... Second, Trump must understand that the North Koreans are not offering to denuclearize. They see their weapons capability as the only thing standing between them and regime change. They’re offering to halt their nuclear and missile programs, but not to disarm their existing arsenal — that’s been their position for years now, and Trump’s goal of reversing the Iran deal has only hardened North Korea’s stance: We can’t even trust an agreement the Americans have already signed, so giving up all our nukes wouldn’t be prudent.
.. Third, Trump must also be clear that what the North Koreans still want, as part of any deal, is the withdrawal of our roughly 38,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula.
.. The deal that’s on the table now, and has been for a while, is: that
- the North Koreans will halt their nuclear and missile programs and would allow implementation of a verification regime. In return,
- the United States would withdraw some military assets, ease economic restrictions and sign a treaty declaring a formal end to the war
.. in exchange for an increased flow of resources — food, fuel, technology — to North Korea from South Korea, China and Japan.
.. Trump routinely shoots from the hip. With the North Koreans, that’s a bad idea. He needs to be serious, worry more about what this means for American security and worry less about making himself look good.
Trump May Be Following Palin’s Trajectory
Support for her cooled due to antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.
The president has been understandably confident in his supporters. They appreciate his efforts, admire his accomplishments (Justice Neil Gorsuch, ISIS’ setbacks), claim bragging rights for possibly related occurrences (the stock market’s rise), and feel sympathy for him as an outsider up against the swamp. They see his roughness as evidence of his authenticity, so he doesn’t freak them out every day. In this they are like Sarah Palin’s supporters, who saw her lack of intellectual polish as proof of sincerity. At her height, in 2008, she had almost the entire Republican Party behind her, and was pushed forward most forcefully by those who went on to lead Never Trump. But in time she lost her place through antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.
The same may well happen—or be happening—with Donald Trump.
One reason is that there is no hard constituency in America for political incompetence, and that is what he continues to demonstrate.
He proceeds each day with the confidence of one who thinks his foundation firm when it’s not—it’s shaky. His job is to build support, win people over through persuasion, and score some legislative victories that will encourage a public sense that he is competent, even talented. The story of this presidency so far is his inability to do this. He thwarts himself daily with his dramas. In the thwarting he does something unusual: He gives his own supporters no cover. They back him at some personal cost, in workplace conversations and at family gatherings.
.. He acts as if he takes them for granted. He does not dance with the ones that brung him.
.. Soon after, Mr. Trump called Myeshia Johnson, widow of Army sergeant La David T. Johnson, and reached her in the car on the way to receive her husband’s casket. Someone put the call on speakerphone. A Democratic congresswoman in the car later charged that Trump had been disrespectful. In fairness, if the congresswoman quoted him accurately, it is quite possible that “He knew what he was signing up for” meant, in the president’s mind, “He heroically signed up to put his life on the line for his country,”
.. Mr. Kelly, in a remarkable White House briefing Thursday, recounted what Gen. Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told then-Gen. Kelly in 2010, when Robert died: “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do. . . . He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.”
.. It was unfortunate that when the controversy erupted, the president defaulted to anger, and tweets. News stories were illustrated everywhere by the picture of the beautiful young widow sobbing as she leaned on her husband’s flag-draped casket. Those are the real stakes and that is the real story, not some jerky sideshow about which presidents called which grieving families more often.
.. This week Sen. John McCain famously gave a speech in Philadelphia slamming the administration’s foreign-policy philosophy as a “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
.. There are many ways presidents can respond to such criticism—thoughtfully, with wit or an incisive rejoinder.Mr. Trump went on Chris Plante’s radio show to tell Sen. McCain he’d better watch it. “People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” he said. “I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.”
.. FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were pretty tough hombres, but they always managed to sound like presidents and not, say, John Gotti.
.. Mr. McCain, suffering from cancer, evoked in his reply his experience as a prisoner of war: “I’ve faced far greater challenges than this.”
That, actually, is how presidents talk.
.. I get a lot of mail saying this is all about style—people pick on Mr. Trump because he isn’t smooth, doesn’t say the right words. “But we understand him.” “Get over these antiquated ideas of public dignity, we’re long past that.” But the problem is not style. A gruff, awkward, inelegant style wedded to maturity and seriousness of purpose would be powerful in America. Mr. Trump’s problem has to do with something deeper—showing forbearance, patience, sympathy; revealing the human qualities people appreciate seeing in a political leader because they suggest a reliable inner stature.
.. the president absolutely has to win on tax reform after his embarrassing loss on ObamaCare. He shouldn’t be in this position, with his back to the wall.
.. Mr. Trump should keep his eye on Sarah Palin’s social media profile. She has 1.4 million Twitter followers, and herFacebook page has a “Shop Now” button.
Bobby Sticks It to Trump
our Russia-besotted president does share some traits with Dostoyevsky’s spiraling protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov.
.. Both men are naifs who arrive and think they have the right to transgress. Both are endlessly fascinating psychological studies: self-regarding, with Napoleon-style grandiosity, and self-incriminating. Both are consumed with chaotic, feverish thoughts as they are pursued by a relentless, suspicious lawman.
.. We are in for an epic clash between two septuagenarians who both came from wealthy New York families and attended Ivy League schools but couldn’t be more different — the flamboyant flimflam man and the buttoned-down, buttoned-up boy scout.
.. One has been called America’s straightest arrow. One disdains self-promotion and avoids the press. One married his sweetheart from school days. One was a decorated Marine in Vietnam. One counts patience, humility and honesty as the virtues he lives by and likes to say “You’re only as good as your word.”
.. Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio says the president has been lying reflexively since he was a kid bragging about home runs he didn’t hit. He gets warped satisfaction from making up stuff, like those calls from the head of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico that the White House just admitted never happened.
Back when he was a Page Six playboy, Trump even invented two P.R. guys to play on the phone with reporters, so he could boast about himself three times as much, including fictitious claims of dating Carla Bruni and being hit on by Madonna.
He is never deterred by the fact that he can be easily caught. But considering he survived the “Access Hollywood” video, it’s no wonder he has a distorted sense of what is an existential threat.
A White House adviser told me recently about how scary Mueller’s dream team is, and how Jared Kushner should be nervous. Every time Mueller adds a legal celebrity to his crew, the music gets cued for an “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Dirty Dozen” array of talent.
- One lawyer helped destroy the New York City mafia;
- another helped bring down Nixon;
- another tackled Enron;
- others are experts on foreign bribery and witness-flipping.
As GQ’s Jay Willis wrote, “If these people were coming for you over a parking ticket, you’d be thinking about liquidating your life savings.”
.. Trump does not yet seem to fathom that Mueller is empowered in a way no one else is to look at all sorts of things. This isn’t some tiff over a casino, where Trump can publicly berate opposing counsel and draw him into a public spat. Mueller won’t take the bait.
The Apostle Paul on The Body of Christ
I’ve never heard a single sermon my entire life on the tenth commandment—“Thou shalt not covet . . . anything that is thy neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17)—because coveting goods is the only game in town now. It’s called capitalism and consumerism! In Paul’s thinking, those big cultural blind spots can only be overcome by a group of people living and affirming and supporting one another in an alternative lifestyle. Smaller groups like the Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, and some Catholic religious orders were able to create actual alternative cultures.
For Paul, community is the living organism that communicates the Gospel message. Paul, like Jesus, wants to change culture here, not just send people away to a far-off heaven later! If Christ’s cosmic message doesn’t take form in a concrete group of people, then, as far as Paul is concerned, it is an unbelievable message. An autonomous Christian is as impossible as an independent arm or leg.
.. When Paul says, “without love I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2), he implies that he is inside of another Being who is Love.
.. Paul sees what we will eventually call the “communion of saints” (by the fifth and sixth centuries) as an organism that is very alive, real, and operative in this world. I like to call it an “energy field” created by all those who share in the various parts of Christ. “Salvation” is thus something we can participate in right here and now.
.. Paul does not make heroes of individuals, but it is precisely as members of the Body that they “shine like stars” as “perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhanded brood” (Philippians 2:15). Paul sees his small communities as an adequate “leaven” by which God will eventually change the whole debauched Roman Empire (Paul got the word “yeast” or “leaven” from Jesus, see Matthew 13:33). Talk about patience and confidence!