Twice last week, Donald Trump publicly made the case against preparing for tomorrow’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Before leaving the G-7 summit early, the American president added new details to his short-attention-span approach to international diplomacy with a nuclear-armed dictator.
Q: How long do you think that it will take you to figure out whether he’s serious about [the process]?
TRUMP: That’s a good question. How long will it take? I think within the first minute, I’ll know.
Asked how he’ll know that quickly, the Republican added, “Just my touch, my feel. That’s what I do.”
Got it. America’s first amateur president, who’s negotiated a grand total of zero deals since taking office, who has no background in international diplomacy, who has an embarrassingly thin record of deal-making in the private sector, who’s been described as possibly “the worst presidential dealmaker in modern history,” who doesn’t have any meaningful familiarity with the issues he’ll be discussing with a rogue nuclear-armed dictator, expects to know “within the first minute” how this process is going to go.
Donald Trump is approaching the summit in Singapore the way a single American might approach speed-dating.
Part of this, obviously, is the result of the American president’s breathtaking ignorance, but it’s also an outgrowth of profound laziness. Real diplomacy takes time, patience, a thorough familiarity with complex issues, and a capacity for listening. The trouble is, President Instant Gratification doesn’t care for any of those things – which is why he’s going in unprepared, expecting to know how the summit will unfold within 60 seconds.
Complicating matters is just how weak a position Trump is in – a dynamic Kim is no doubt aware of and eager to exploit. The American president, unpopular at home and isolated from U.S. allies around the globe, is desperate for some kind of win. Trump just wrapped up a G-7 summit in which he earned nothing but scorn, and he won’t want to return to the White House this week empty-handed.
And so, after already making concessions to North Korea in exchange for practically nothing – agreeing to bilateral talks, scaling back military exercises off the Korean Peninsula – Trump may very well be eager to give up even more, thanks in part to the weekend’s fiasco of his own making.
Like everyone else, I’m hoping the summit succeeds, but this president hasn’t done anything to inspire confidence.
Postscript: Politico noted over the weekend, “One senior administration official joked on Friday that Trump couldn’t wait to ditch the G-7 confab, where the president knows he’s disliked, and head for what he expects will be a friendlier reception from the North’s fearsome dictator.”
The American president can’t get along with the elected leaders of America’s closest allies, but he expects to be chummy with a nuclear-armed dictator. As jokes go, I’ve seen funnier.