Loading...
Stop printing EBT cards and illegal immigration ceases to exist. Global warming would take a hit too....

A 'fantastic meeting' — for Trump and Kim

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

Loading…

Bobby Burns

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A series of U.S. and North Korean flags, side by side, lined up across a stage. The two men approach the stage from opposite sides, and then shake hands. They pose for photographs. They walk off again. This is the image, the picture, that both men wanted to project around the world. But why?

For Kim Jong Un, this moment is vindication. The wisdom of his nuclear policy has been confirmed: His tiny, poor, often hungry country, where hundreds of thousands have perished in concentration camps that differ little from those built by Stalin, has been treated as the equal of the United States of America. If Kim hadn't continued the missile program, if he hadn't enhanced his missile delivery capability, President Donald Trump would not be there.

The photographs will also help Kim solve an important problem. All dictators are insecure, and absolute dictators are absolutely more insecure than the rest. Several years ago, Kim staged the elaborate murder of his uncle, forcing the rest of the elite to watch as his rival was ripped apart by antiaircraft machine guns. Fear and terror are one way to transmit messages of power; the inspiration of admiration and awe are another. The flags and the handshake will reinforce Kim's legitimacy and make him harder to depose.

For Trump, this image addresses the somewhat different problem of his personal feelings of insecurity. Legally, his legitimacy is not in doubt. Yet Trump often seems to worry that it is. Elected without a majority, Trump repeatedly claims he has one. With no political, educational or any other qualifications, Trump ascribes to himself almost mystical, intuitive qualities instead. So far, these have failed him. In the complicated, nuanced worlds of economics and security, he has achieved nothing except destruction: of previous agreements, of institutions, even of an anodyne G-7 statement just days ago. But in Singapore, he could achieve something without discussion of complex issues, without any intellectual effort at all: a photograph, a "breakthrough," the image of the intuitive dealmaker who wants "peace."

The images coming out of Singapore are also important to Trump because he has created them. When meeting with allies, Trump does not control the narrative, nor does he decide what people will see.

Indeed, the image that came to symbolize that disastrous, angry G-7 meeting was not his own creation: It was taken by a German photographer, and it showed Chancellor Angela Merkel leaning over a table and talking down to the American president, like a parent to a child. In Singapore, by contrast, Trump controlled the optics, even deliberately giving priority to a Singaporean television station rather than the White House pool. He reveled in that ability.

"Are you getting a nice photo," he actually asked the camera operator, "So we look nice and handsome and beautiful and perfect?" As for the substance of the meeting, there wasn't any. The paper signed reiterates previous vague agreements. It promises "denuclearization," just as in the past, but without any substance, as in the past. It implies that there will now be further talks about talks, but there have been U.S.-North Korean talks before. Had any previous American president, Republican or Democrat, emerged from an event like this, in which so much was given away with so little to show for it, he would have been embarrassed and probably vilified.

But Trump and Kim are two men who survive, in politics, by insisting on their own versions of reality. Both have propaganda machines which will trumpet a great success. Both will be loudly applauded by their respective supporters. Both will gain personally, even if their countries don't. In that sense, this was indeed, as Trump said, "a really fantastic meeting."

Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a professor of practice at the London School of Economics. 

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

October 22, 2018 - 16 minutes ago

The United States has the shameful distinction of being the world's leading jailer, keeping more people behind bars than any other nation on earth.

Across the political spectrum, there is now a growing consensus that decades spent locking up more and more people have not made us safer, but they…

Sarah Gillooly

October 22, 2018 - 16 minutes ago

North Carolina’s elementary and secondary schools are among the best in the country at delivering academic value for the tax dollars spent on them. If you haven’t heard that before, it’s not your fault. You have been repeatedly misinformed.

Before I defend my claim, let me clarify…

john hood

October 21, 2018

Eugene Scott, The Washington Post 

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's latest comments on her husband's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky suggests that she doesn't completely understand the #MeToo movement and her husband's role in the need for its…

October 21, 2018

Weeks before it opened, "First Man" became embroiled in one of those stupid controversies that are now our economy's chief product. The movie, in telling the story of Neil Armstrong, does not show him planting the U.S. flag on the moon. Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, only heightened the…

PONNURU

October 21, 2018

If Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, then he has joined Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un among the ranks of rogue leaders who assassinate their critics on foreign soil. The only difference is that the Russian president and North Korean leader…

MarcThiessen

October 20, 2018

Many are saying that the Nov. 6 elections are all about Trump, a referendum either affirming or refuting his leadership. Our president casts a big shadow, especially in Congressional races, but there’s more than just the Trump factor at play.

Once in a blue moon there is no major statewide…

Tom Campbell.jpg

October 20, 2018

If there was any doubt as to why the Saudis might think the leadership of this country would look the other way on the atrocity they are alleged to have committed against our colleague Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump erased it Thursday night.

The president of the United States, who has long…

Karen Tumulty

October 19, 2018

Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration on Monday unveiled its latest proposal for reining in the cost of pharmaceuticals: requiring television advertisements for prescription drugs to display the price tag of the medication being promoted. For the 10 drugs seen most often on TV, the…

October 19, 2018

President Trump's constant, relentless, remorseless lying is a central feature of his presidency, an unprecedented threat to our democracy and — in my view — an impeachable offense.

I realize it does not qualify as news that Trump lies all the time. I also realize it is not always…

Eugene Robinson

October 18, 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shouldn't be underestimated as a political strategist or written off as an ideological twin of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. She has done three smart things in the early preseason of the 2020 Democratic presidential race.

First, she rolled out what is…

Jennifer Rubin
293 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 30
        Next Page»   Last Page»