Loading...
BYH Balot family for providing $2M in scholarships for students to attend John Paul II Catholic High School. Greenville...

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

June 17, 2018

"Oh, good lord."

That was my reaction the day after the election of Donald Trump in November of 2016, when it dawned on me that I would be serving my year as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists during the same time as the guy who wanted to "open up" libel laws and weaken…

CARTOON-COMMENT

June 17, 2018

Well, that didn't take long. President Trump had barely departed Singapore when Democrats in Washington unleashed scathing attacks over his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

"What the United States has gained is vague and unverifiable at best. What North Korea has gained, however, is…

MarcThiessen

June 16, 2018

The Wall Street Journal

More than a few conservative intellectuals have warmed to Donald Trump’s trade protectionism because it supposedly helps blue-collar Americans. But what if his tariffs do the opposite?

Erica York at the Tax Foundation crunched some numbers recently showing that Mr.…

June 16, 2018

Scott Pruitt's wife Marlyn is proving all the feminist doubters wrong.

Ever since Lisa Belkin's seminal 2003 New York Times Magazine piece, "The Opt-Out Revolution," feminists have been wringing their hands fearing economic disaster for women who left the workforce to tend to their children. But…

Helaine Olen

June 16, 2018

 

Note to readers: With all the recent activity regarding immigration we decided to repeat the column we wrote following a visit to Ellis Island, New York in 2011. It is relevant today.

Standing in the Great Hall of the Admissions Building on Ellis Island you can almost hear the voices and…

Tom Campbell.jpg

June 15, 2018

No Republican in the United States will be surprised to learn that the American Civil Liberties Union is moving into the political campaign realm on behalf of liberal Democrats. In fact, it will come as a shock to most Republicans that the ACLU hasn't been doing so for decades. Yet in his piece…

EdRogers

June 15, 2018

Are you old enough to remember when the Republican Party had principles and a backbone? It seems so long ago.

If you do recall that bygone time, you might expect that said principles and backbone will assert themselves, sooner or later, against President Trump. Stop waiting, because it's not going…

Eugene Robinson

June 14, 2018

The problem with Robert De Niro wasn't that he brought politics to the Tony Awards. It was that he brought the wrong kind.

"F-k Trump," he announced when he took the stage to introduce Bruce Springsteen. "It's no longer down with Trump, but f-k Trump." The stars sitting in front of him roared in…

Molly Roberts

June 13, 2018

The Washington Post

"There's a special place in hell" for leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on "Fox News Sunday."

This, as President Donald Trump was about to sit down with the head of a totalitarian North Korean regime responsible…

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…

Anne Applebaum
288 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 29
        Next Page»   Last Page»