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Flattering Trump will apparently get Kim Jong Un everywhere

06/12/18 10:47AM

Donald Trump said over the weekend that he expected to know how his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un would go "within the first minute." That was absurd, of course, but it pointed to one of the president's more glaring flaws: his susceptibility to flattery.

All the brutal dictator would have to do is show up, look Trump in the eye, and tell the president what he wanted to hear, at which point the Republican would be both charmed and impressed.

And by some measures, that's what happened. Trump told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, for example, in reference to Kim, "He said openly, and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows, that no other president ever could have done this.... He said no other president could have done this."

Substantively, this is bonkers -- every modern American president could've done this, but none was prepared to give North Korea what it wanted in exchange for nothing -- but Kim apparently understood that flattering Trump creates opportunities with Trump.

Consider this exchange from the president's post-meeting press conference:

Q: What did Kim Jong Un say to you to give you the confidence that, for once in the history of North Korea, they are not cheating the system, and gaming the world, and gaming the people who will have to go in and make sure that they're actually giving up their nuclear arsenal? What did he say to you?

TRUMP: Yeah, I mean, very fair question. He actually mentioned the fact that they proceeded down a path in the past, and, ultimately, as you know, nothing got done. In one case, they took billions of dollars -- during the Clinton regime -- took billions of dollars and nothing happened. That was a terrible thing, and he actually brought it up to me.

And he said we have never gone this far. I don't think they've ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done.

For now, let's put aside Trump referring to Bill Clinton's democratically elected administration as a "regime" -- a word he did not use in reference to North Korea's dictatorship. Instead, consider the peek into the president's narcissism.

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Trump finds new ways to alienate our South Korean allies

06/12/18 10:03AM

A few weeks ago, when Donald Trump abruptly canceled his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, the American president apparently forgot to give a heads-up to our South Korean allies. South Korean officials issued a statement saying they were "trying to figure out what President Trump's intention is and the exact meaning of it."

Of course, Trump changed direction soon after, un-canceled the summit, and ended up agreeing to scrap scheduled joint U.S./South Korean military exercises. Guess who the American president forgot to tell.

South Korea's presidential office seemed blindsided by the announcement on the joint exercises.

"We need to try to understand what President Trump said," a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.

NBC News added, “There is every indication from Seoul that the South Korean leadership and military did not know the U.S. was about to cancel Joint Military exercises.”

Trump also held a press conference before leaving Singapore, and in response to a question about the cancellation of the military exercise, the American president offered some not-so-subtle criticism of his ostensible allies.

"South Korea contributes [to the cost of the exercises], but not a hundred percent, which is certainly a subject that we have to talk to them about also," Trump told reporters. "And that has to do with the military expense and also the trade."

Taken together, which country's leaders are feeling better about their relationship with the White House this morning, South Korea or North Korea?

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Trump gushes about Kim Jong-un's intelligence, 'great personality'

06/12/18 09:20AM

Donald Trump has, in recent months, offered some inexplicable praise for North Korea's Kim Jong-un, calling the dictator "open," "honorable," and "a pretty smart cookie."

But now that the American president has actually spent some time with Kim, Trump is taking the praise to a whole new level. For example, here's what the Republican told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren:

"Really, he's got a great personality. He's a funny guy, he's very smart, he's a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I'm surprised by that, but he loves his people. [...]

"He has to be a rough guy or he has been a rough person. But we got along very well. He's smart, loves his people, he loves his country."

Reminded that Kim Jong-un has starved and brutalized his own people, Trump replied, "Look, he's doing what he's seen done, if you look at it."

At his press conference, Trump went to say that Kim "is very talented." Asked if he still believes the people of North Korea are "more brutally oppressed" than "any regime on Earth," the Republican added, "I believe it's a rough situation over there. It's rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there."

Asked by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos whether he trusts Kim, Trump replied, "I do trust him, yeah." (In the same interview, the president added, in reference to Kim, "His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.")

Finally, Trump also boasted overnight about having "developed a very special bond" with the North Korean leader.

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In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the East Sea on March 8, 2016 during Exercise Ssang Yong 2016. (Photo by MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte/U.S. Navy/Getty)

Trump echoes North Korean rhetoric on military exercises

06/12/18 08:49AM

Perhaps the most notable substantive development from Donald Trump's summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un was the American president's latest concession: Trump announced that he's curtailing scheduled military exercises with our South Korean allies.

Consider, for example, what the Republican told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. From the network's transcript:

"[W]e're not gonna play the war games. You know, I wanted to stop the war games, I thought they were very provocative. But I also think they're very expensive. We're running the country properly, I think they're very, very expensive. To do it, we have to fly planes in from Guam -- that's six and a half hours away. Big bombers and everything else, I said, 'Who's paying for this?' I mean, who pays, in order to practice.

"So one of the things that I suggested and I wanna do is we're going to stop the war games, unless for some reason, we're unable to go further."

Similarly, at his press conference, Trump three times called the military exercises "very provocative," adding, "I think it's inappropriate to be having war games." The president went on to say "like to be able to bring" U.S. troops home from South Korea.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but if North Korean officials had literally written the talking points for the White House, they probably would've sounded similar to this. Kim Jong-un is the one who condemns joint U.S./South Korea military exercises as "provocative" and "inappropriate."

And now the sitting American president is saying the same thing, effectively endorsing North Korean propaganda -- handing Kim another concession in exchange for very little.

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Image: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with President Donald Trump

At summit with North Korea's Kim, Trump gets his spectacle (but little else)

06/12/18 08:00AM

In the weeks leading up to Donald Trump's talks with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, White House officials made clear that the American president "remained squarely focused on the summit's spectacle." To this extent, Trump has every reason to be pleased with the developments in Singapore: the president preoccupied with optics, theatricality, and "central casting" enjoyed the international spotlight alongside his new dictatorial pal.

But looking past the spectacle, what exactly did Trump and Kim accomplish?

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. [...]

While the agreement fell short of outlining concrete steps that would lead to Kim giving up his nuclear weapons program -- the stated long-term goal of U.S. negotiators -- it gave Trump and Kim a piece of paper to point to as a sign of progress and a symbol of goodwill.

It was possible that the summit would descend into a fiasco and the two men would agree to literally nothing. What they ended up with is certainly better than that.

But to see this as some kind of substantive triumph is to overlook the fact that their joint statement says very little, and Trump will return to D.C. effectively empty-handed.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.


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