"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bursting His Bubble

This is almost fun now.  The latest Rasmussen poll, for April 17-19, gives Trump an approval of 49%, but a disapproval of 50% (guess which number he's tweeting about?).  But the aggregate, per, is actually down today from what it was only 6 days ago.

On April 14, the aggregate approval rating was 40.8%, disapproval 53.2%.  Six days later, the same ratings are 40.3% and 54.3%.  Trump still doesn't understand how statistics work; or he doesn't care.

And the worst part is, this is reflected in his ignorance about how the world works.  North Korea is playing him like a fiddle, and he thinks he's the maestro:

But it also functioned as an assertion of North Korea's negotiating position. Mr Kim said in a reported statement that tests were no longer necessary because North Korea had achieved its goal of developing a functional nuclear arsenal.

In proposing the talks and moving to suspend his nation’s displays of military prowess, Mr Kim pivoted sharply from his more aggressive stance in the preceding months.
And about that meeting:

It’s nearly a month later, and nothing’s been set yet. Not the date, not the location, not the participants beyond the two leaders. Since the announcement, President Trump has changed his secretary of State, national security adviser, and CIA director. He still hasn’t nominated anyone to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea. This is, arguably, the most high-stakes presidential meeting with a foreign leader since the end of the Cold War, and it’s not clear that this has been more than a passing thought on the president’s mind since the announcement.

One wonders if the rest of the region is getting worried, or starting to have doubts that the summit will occur at all. Yesterday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters, “Historical experience tells us that at the moment of easing of the situation on the peninsula and as first light dawns on peace and dialogue, frequently all manner of disruptive factors emerge. So we call on all sides to maintain focus, eliminate interference, and firmly follow the correct path of dialogue and negotiation.”

President Ronald Reagan and his White House made extensive preparations for their first meeting with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The summit was announced in the summer of 1985 and didn’t begin until November 19. Reagan had wanted a summit with the Soviets since the beginning of his presidency, but as he put it so memorably, “they kept dying on me.” (Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982, Yuri Andropov died in 1984, Konstantin Chernenko died in 1985.) Reagan read through dozens of policy papers, met with slews of experts on Russia policy and history, former Soviet diplomats and KGB officials who had defected, former presidents Nixon and Ford, and former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Reagan watched Gorbachev’s speeches, and did a complete dress rehearsal with Soviet Affairs expert Jack Matlock playing Gorbachev. Is there anything remotely like this going on in the current administration?

To the extent the president is thinking about the Koreas at all, he seems to be winging it with protectionist saber-rattling. As Fred Kaplan notes, on Thursday in Ohio, Trump referred to a recently reached trade deal with South Korea, saying, “I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea. You know why? Because it’s a very strong card. And I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.” Why would the United States threaten to make implementation of a trade deal with South Korea dependent upon a nuclear deal with North Korea?

Meanwhile, North Korea has launched its own “charm offensive” on the South Koreans. God knows if it will work, but Kim Jong-un and his wife are doing photo ops attending K-Pop concerts. They’re doing everything possible to maximize their leverage heading into this summit (presuming the summit happens). What is our side doing?

Earlier this morning, Robert Kelly, associate professor at Pusan National University, told CNBC that the lack of preparation on the part of the White House, coupled with North Korea’s supreme preparation, are such a predictable formula for disaster that the summit ought to be called off.

Trump “doesn’t know a great deal about Korea — we know that he doesn’t read very much, he watches a lot of television, and his national security staff is sort of in chaos right now,” Kelly said.  “The North Koreans have been working on this stuff for a long time, so they’re going to come in there and know every single detail and they’re going to be ready to negotiate down deep into the weeds.” 

And that's the National Review, commenting before Trump said he'd just walk away if he wants to:

Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Wednesday that, "if the meeting when I'm there isn't fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."

The idea of an abrupt, mid-meeting departure comes from Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Walking out in the middle of the meeting would provide a Trumpian level of theatricality to an already dramatic event, the source said.
But it could also deeply offend a nuclear-capable leader who has issued threats against the US, and short-circuit chances of diplomacy, analysts said.

And Trump is making the assumption that genuine progress could be made -- highly unlikely beyond a prearranged gesture such as a release of Americans being held captive in North Korea -- especially given that the administration is pulling together in weeks the kind of meeting that usually takes years of preparation.

Why will this work?  Because Trump is the Master Deal-Maker!

Trump, who has told advisers he's confident in his ability to sway Kim in person, shocked observers with the announcement last month that he'd meet with the North Korean leader despite the concerns of allies such as Japan.

Everybody still remember how he insulted all the leaders of NATO?  Swayed them, didn't he?  Oh, wait, no, he didn't.

This is why impeachment is actually a very good idea.

Without it, we're screwed.


Blogger trex said...

“Trump, who has told advisers he's confident in his ability to sway Kim in person, shocked observers with the announcement last month that he'd meet with the North Korean leader despite the concerns of allies such as Japan.”

Color me cynical but I think that any “confidence” Trump has - and indeed why there’s been such an abrupt 180 on the part of Kim around his nuclear weapons program - is that NK is a client State of Russia and this entire drama is nothing but Potemkin theater arranged by Putin to give Trump something, ANYTHING to show as an achievement and keep him in office where Putin needs him. Trump is indeed a confidence man and a grifter and an actor who knows how to play out a long con.

Also, I know I rarely comment but I’m here everyday and you’re still killin’ it.

9:05 PM  

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