In Diplomacy, Trump Is the Anti-Reagan

The Gipper advocated “trust but verify.” The Donald believes in “my touch, my feel.”


Comments: 179

  1. Devastatingly succinct analysis. I hold a lot of contempt for Reagan and the path he started this country down, but I'd trade Trump for him in a heartbeat

  2. Yeah, now we’re acting like battered spouses who can’t leave til the kids are grown.

  3. It is fascinating that the hawkish McCain and the anti-union Reagan have become heroes to the Democrats.

    All you have to do is to make Trump look bad.

    But beware. The American people are not going to buy the sob story being sold by the NYT and its readers. When they see something good, they know it is good.

    And they WILL vote in November.

  4. I'll take Trump over the similarly-but-differently evil Reagan. Reagan was smart enough to try to cover his tracks and wipe away his fingerprints, to shift blame onto underlings, etc. With Trump, the evil is mostly right out in the open.

  5. This is just another Reality Show, loyalty rally and ego fest for Him. The Trumps have already amassed enough Cash to last for decades. That's the entire point of his Campaign and Regime. All the ready is just for entertainment, and to spew his spite and ignorance. Seriously.

  6. The Iran deal was so terrible that Trump reneged. It was over 100 pages and full of details on verification.

    Trump declares KJU to be trustworthy and the agreement, all of one page save for the ginormous signatures, is historic. No specifics on what will be done, and nothing on verification.

    The man really knows how to put a deal together!

  7. Your moment of clarity is greatly appreciated.

  8. " my touch, my feel ". Here's a collective GROSS, from the Women of America. Seriously.

  9. Good to know I wasn't the only one cringing when trump talks about his touch - I think of his fat fingers grabbing at women breasts and thinking he can hurt and assault women because he is famous and then brag about it like he is some vile frat boy.

  10. Also reminiscent of Bush's proclaiming that he knew Putin was a good man. "I feel it in my guy, he's a good man."

  11. It does not matter what was or was not accomplished for real in Singapore, because it will be presented to the people who want to believe as American Greatness Restored. Downsides will be Obama's fault. Or crooked Hillary's. Or the failing NYT or the witch hunt. Take you pick, it doesn't matter.

    Trump doesn't have to win; he doesn't need to have even an inkling about the havoc he leaves swirling like the piles of rubble after an F5. He just has to declare himself a winner.

    So in that light, the summit is a success. If it leaves the world in greater or lesser stability, so what? It's the midterms that matter, and nothing else.

  12. "It's the midterms that matter, and nothing else." The midterms will not impact Trump in any substantial way. Hence, "Whats the problem?" is still how the White House is run.

  13. I'm no fan of Reagan and his brand of conservatism which has caused a generation of damage to our country. However he looks like a benevolent genius when compared with Trump. I don't understand why the GOP has fallen in lock step with Trump's march to oblivion. I deeply hope that the short term damage our country is facing from Trump's regime will be made up by the destruction of the corrupt GOP/NRA/Russia combine that is inevitable.

  14. Ted: the answer is simple, just follow the money.

  15. We can thank Reagan for the beginning of the end of the middle class.

  16. Bill, please come to Oklahoma, where I live. Where we were truly afraid to put a Clinton sticker on our car. Come and hear from the vast majority here of how Donald Trump is God's choice for our country, the savior of our people--and you can imagine who "our people" are, and aren't. Visit with the folks down at the Elk's lodge, at the bars, at the churches and gun ranges, and tell them you're their friend. They'll be fine with that while you agree with them. But they are prepared for armed insurrection if Trump were impeached, whatever evidence there may be. Suggest to them that they might be nicer to democrats--or "demoncrats", as they say. And believe, if you want, they're just hurt innocents that liberals have offended. But they are racists, sir, and many anti-Semites, and anti-gay, and sure that God wants them to bring on Armageddon, too. You don't go on Fox blogs, or even the WSJ, or you'd know the left's venom is mild oatmeal compared to the right wing today. They've been waiting a long time to take us back to the bad old days, and here they are. Apologize to them if you want.

  17. Reagan was an actor, Trump a reality TV star. Both men knew how to manipulate viewers, if not really shape world affairs. It's all about drama.

  18. About abandoning joint military exercises by the U.S./ROK military. "War games" are what infantry, airmen and sailors "play" to learn and sharpen their skills, to deal with the unexpected and to learn how to carry out jointly produced plans, among many other things. They're also extremely useful to coalition allies speaking different languages, using different equipment and employing variant tactics. Would it surprise you to learn that U.S. and ROK forces carried out NO joint military exercises before the N. Koreans swept over the 38th parallel in 1950 and drove the S. Korean coalition all the way to the Pusan perimeter, coming within an eyelash of destroying the U.S. forces there, to say nothing of the ROK army? War games are an extension of the principle of preparedness, in this case against the 4th largest army in the world, larger even than the Russian Federation's. To stop joint training and adopt a "wait and see" posture is to hand the initiative to that formidable army. Trump, in his ignorance, seems ready to hand that initiative Kim Jong-un, and expects to be applauded for it.

  19. My hope is that Trump’s generals will withhold his military parade if he doesn’t restore preparedness exercises.

  20. Astute comment, CPMariner, and no surprise that Trump wouldn't see the value of anything resembling training and experience.

  21. Reagan learned what nuclear weapons could do and then decided that he wanted them gone, he did not buy into MAD. Gorbachev came to the conclusion that unless the Cold War was ended, the U.S.S.R. would not survive, and he was willing to get rid of nuclear weapons to bring about that end. Reagan was not well informed about the details but he knew what he wanted and it was no more nuclear sword of Damocles over the world.

    Trump does not really have any strong preferences beyond looking like the big winner, and to have the attention of all. He wants to show a deal with Kim, he dumps the conventional forces readiness activities to make Kim happy, without considering the actual consequences.

    Kim is a cool customer, cold in fact, he killed people with who he had been close to consolidate his power. He demands of Trump what China wants and he wants, and Trump gives it to him, without any negotiating.

    This interaction has nothing in common with Reagan and Gorbachev. Different times, different people, different goals.

  22. Thanks for the perspective. I too hope that we can get North Korea to give up their weapons but why would they when they have already gotten a lot of what they wanted from trump without giving anything in return.

  23. Besides, Trump's word on anything is worthless. If he treats our oldest and closest ally like trash, why would anyone expect anything different from him with them? Kim may be brutal, but he isn't stupid. For that, we have Trump.

  24. The important difference isn’t between Reagan and Trump, it’s between Gorbachev and Kim. The idea that we should trust Trumps judgment that Kim wants peace, denuclearization and cash is absurd in light of his successful production of nukes, his continuing development of long range missiles, his feeding his uncle alive to dogs and perpetuating a third generation of gulag prisoners.

    If Kim wanted to be Gorbachev he’d have reformed already. Gorby didn’t need a summit.

  25. What Trump really understood was the part about wanting cash. They have that in common.

  26. I really enjoy Bret Stephens - although I must admit I disagreed with him when he supported Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (why is the Iran deal so bad with verification a core tenet of the agreement but this one so good in Trump's twisted logic- without any firm commitment to denuclearize on the part of North Korea, never mind the verification of such?). This "deal" is so laughable on so many levels I am not even sure where to begin. This Presidency is such a farce - the only hope for the world's salvation right now appears to be Bob Mueller.

  27. Oh, Mr. Stephens, thank you for your analyses which have been my thoughts exactly. To read your words, you a Republican and I a Democrat, is a testimony to how there can be a meeting of the minds in spite of a most polarized nation. Your juxtaposing the characters of Reagan/Gorbachev with Trump/Kim is the crux of this present paradigm. I will not repeat what you so thoroughly critiqued. But I do want to vent my personal feelings re this anti-climatic "summit." I am still reeling from Trump's treatment of our closest allies, our neighbors and friends, at the G-7 meeting. I am ashamed and embarrassed for my country. Simultaneously, as I watched the touchy-feeling gestures of this president and smiles rather than sneers in Singapore, I was repulsed. Unlike Gorbachev, Kim is a murderer, pure and simple, and among the worst of dictators of recent times who has relentlessly abused, exploited, and violated the universal code of human rights. Unlike Reagan, I believe that peace and stability of the world order is not Trump's sole purpose. He wants the prize..whether it be the Nobel or popularity ratings. And finally our nation should never both figuratively and literally hang our flag in such a way that it abuts the North Korean one.

  28. Trump may have his eye on the Nobel Peace prize even as he disdains all the intellectual and humanitarian pursuits that the Nobel committee rewards, but I still have faith that the committee won't let him come anywhere near its short list. Even if I don't have faith in much else.

  29. Bret Stephens, Ben Cardin, Bob Menendez and Chuck Schumer were all opposed to the Obama Iran nuclear deal. And thus they have no credibility on the Trump North Korea nuclear "steal".

    Israel is the primary nuclear weapons ethnic sectarian supremacist rogue nation state. Followed by India and Pakistan.

    While the 2.3 million Americans in prison are 25 % of the world's prisoners with 5 % of humanity. And 40 % are black like Ben Carson. Even though only 13% of Americans are black. Blacks are persecuted for acting like they are white.

    America is allied with the corrupt inhumane ethnic sectarian supremacist royal autocrats in Saudi Arabia. America is allied with the military dictatorship in Egypt. Mr. Kim is no worse than they are.

  30. Well said.

  31. "I’d be happy to be proved wrong. I would be thrilled to learn that Kim is a farsighted reformer masquerading, out of desperate necessity, as a thug and a swindler." The Leader of the Republican Party's making the "ultimate deal" with Kim Jong Un must provoke comparisons not with Gorbachev and Reagan but with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 - in todays' case for Trump's domestic political purposes. I'd be happy to be proved wrong. I'd be thrilled to learn that Trump is a farsighted statesman masquerading, out of a sense of mischief and irony, as a thug and a swindler. I wish his Republican Party enablers would be similarly thrilled.

  32. Totally agree. Another point; Trump is all about Trump. Trump wanted the summit to prove he is a stable genius who understands how to create world peace, and it is easy. Trump is all about personal relationships with other leaders who he thinks can manage and he then can take advantage of them. He thinks he is the smartest man in the room. Trump has a short attention span. He believes in bi-lateral deals, believing he does not need or want allies. He believes what works best is keeping everyone fighting everyone else, whether it is in the White House, the G7, the Congress or the world at large. Set them upon each other and see who wins. Being all about image, real content or results are irrelevant. Now that he has solved the Korean issue, Trump can return home and go back to his campaign-style rallies and tweets.

  33. Absolutely, I agree with you and I am not a Republican.You don't mention that Reagan had the courage to go to Berlin in June 1987 and challenge Mr Gorbachev to "tear down this wall". He had negotiated with Mr.Gorbachev and had a respectful relationship and yet he chose to go to Berlin and decry his human rights abuses.Mr.Trump goes for handshakes,smiles and chummy photo-ops.

  34. Trump's little show at the G7 seemed too cleverly staged for him to have directed it all by himself. I think he had some help from a certain Russian. The same Russian that will be all too happy to have the US military off of his little neighbor's door step, as will China as they conduct their aggressive maneuvers in the China Sea. Kim benefits also. He gets to join the nuclear dictator club and South Korea is surrounded by them, with Japan as the only nearby friendly. Putin must be thrilled.

    While everyone is once again engaged in yet another outrageous spectacle brought to you by the apprentice president, Spec. Counsel Mueller is quietly going about his job, and the free nations of the world cross their fingers.

  35. One television reporter in Seoul said people were giddy and hopeful. I doubt that will last when they realize they now face the huge North Korean military with an unreliable partner who appears to be unilaterally backing away from it’s defense commitment.

  36. For now, however, it’s hard to see what the Singapore summit has achieved other than to betray America’s allies, our belief in human rights, our history of geopolitical sobriety and our reliance on common sense. For what?

    Wow! This says it all.

  37. Windrip, I think you let out "giving away all the advantage the US had to the countries enemies, for free"

  38. Probably the most insightful take I've seen on this whole Gong Show of an arms negotiation. Despots like Kim are only interested in Who's In Charge, not What They're In Charge Of. Muammar Gaddafi's final moments are probably his cell phone wallpaper.

    And once again - - what is Japan supposed to do about this? Trump has left our strongest east asian ally out in the cold by suspending the military exercises, and Kim is not shy about launching nuclear-capable missiles over the only country that has ever been attacked by a nuclear weapon. Are we supposed to be surpised when Japan announces its own nuclear deterrent?

  39. The Art of the Deal - give in without getting anything in return - see TPP and NK "deal"

  40. Your paeans to Ronald Reagan notwithstanding, it must certainly come as no surprise, Mr. Stephens, that this president, the grudging darling of the American Right, was completely out of his depth in Singapore.

    He proved to all the world that the carefully constructed legend that’s his very own creation was never what he told us it was. To the easily-taken in, the excitement and promise of unending thrills were the poison that he distilled into an intoxicating beverage of self-delusion which his audience shared.

    The North Korean monster smiled and glad-handed Donald Trump and guided him through his paces as surely as a man walks his dog, the leash long or short as needed, just enough to give the dog a sense of feeling that it’s moving about on its on volition. Kim was in total and complete control. For one thing, Kim reads and digests briefings and reports. He may eschew advice—but unlike his “unprepared” American opposite—he will listen. Trump is much too taken with himself.

    You are on record, Mr. Stephens, as cheering the death of the Iran nuclear agreement. You found it unworkable and unverifiable. You excoriated President Obama for not forcing the ayatollahs to root out their proxies in other countries, visiting terror and political calamity in countries not their own, the human rights abuses of Syrians, for example, a terrible cost.

    You apparently forgot, in your necessity to criticize Mr. Obama, that Trump couldn’t be bothered with details.

    Kim won. Trump lost.

  41. Thank you Bret...rarely do we see eye to eye but on this one I agree with you 100%

  42. There was a handshake, a photo op, a secret short meeting, and then a piece of paper waved about with hyperbolic adjectives that followed.

    There were no specifics, no inspections and no change in the human rights being abused or executions stopping. There was no mention at all (here as well) about China. (considering they hold all the power via their propping up of the country by supplying them with everything for daily life)

    Look, I want peace and if it is achieved somehow and someway with this President and that dictator, then I might feel a lit bit safer. I will give them their due.

    It still does not cancel out all of the atrocities committed so far, and all that are continuing on.

  43. For Sale: one (1) naked emperor who thinks he's done something that no President could do. As is.

    Mr Stephens has proven that, without any doubt,
    Trump has dug the DRIEST hole of watershed moments.

  44. Keep up the great work Bret. Your sober and accurate analysis of everything Trump should be mandatory reading for every Trump supporter.

  45. The fiasco in Singapore actually reminded me of another Reagan summit, the Rejkjavik Summit of 1986. That summit was held with a very limited number of advisers and it was held in the shadow of the Iran-Contra Affair that threatened to bring down the Reagan Administration. At the summit both leaders quickly fell into talk about eliminating all ballistic missiles. As Reagan's aids bit their lips they saw how close the USSR was to having the US give up it's one military advantage, viz. it's nuclear triad, and thus leave itself at a severe disadvantage to the Soviet conventional forces. Fortunately, a dispute over the eventually meaningless SDI program led to the break off of the talks. I knew personnel at the Rand Corporation and they had the first inclination that possibly Reagan was headed for dementia. They called the whole thing "WreckHavoc". None the less the sense that there was some progress did save Reagan from the impeachment he so richly earned by running an illegal war against the Bolland Act that prohibited the arming of military forces in Nicaragua as well as a battery of laws prohibiting the sales of hand held missiles to Iran. Now the analogy, when talk of this summit began there was discussion of North Korean denuclearization, now we are talking about removing American troops and denuclearizing the entire peninsula, thus leaving the North with a 5-1 advantage in conventional forces. Reagan may have had dementia to blame but for Trump its all narcissism.

  46. I wouldn’t count out the beginnings of dementia either, especially if you compare Trump’s statements of a couple of decades ago with his current statements. He had some looney ideas then but he was much more articulate.

  47. This is smoke, looking for cover. Facts, actions, and their implications show Trump sold out to China on 3 points: the US will pick up economic support for North Korea and not block its admission to the world's multi-national economies. (This also opens North Korea as a proxy and new back door for relading US intellectual property and tech secrets.) The US will reduce it military footprint in SE Asia, including troop readiness. Trump's trade ire and angst will turn on its allies (who Trump thinks are freeloaders.) We suddenly hear about Canada diary and European cars (millions!); after a week of meeting with China, nothing on China steel, its deficit.

    The stimulus for these major changes of direction in US geo-military and economic policy was the $500 million cross-channeled upfront that put Trump's Malaysian resort in the middle of an international upgrade. Trump signaled immediately in turn, rushed to save China jobs, rescuing China's spyware consumer firm XTE for a billion in fines, and opening the US to sweeps of data through its spyware.

    In the streets, when events are confusing and clarity is demanded, 2 questions are asked: Who got paid? And who got blessed? Think through the story and timelines (China supplying Kim a US-made luxury plane!), the back and forth as strategic deflection; focus less on the event and review the process, the chain of decisions. Then ask: Who are the Blessed?

  48. Take to the streets and protest 60's style.

  49. Reagan and Trump had much in common.

    They both used the idiotic Make America Great Again campaign slogans before proceeding to shred worker rights, women's rights, environmental safety while giving the rich giant raises.

    Those were both fake Christians thrilled to pander to Christian Crusaders hellbent on installing a burning cross on the White House.

    They both rode the wretched fumes of racism to the Oval Office; Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi at a white supremacist county fair while talking 'welfare queen' jive; the Birther-Liar needs no explanation.

    And both committed treason with a foreign country to get elected in the first place.

    Trump's campaign was a Club Med for Kremlin operatives to ensure that Hillary Hatred received a steady daily insulin drip of 'emails' to ensure Daycare Donnie's election.

    And Abolhassan Banisadr, the former President of Iran, has stated "that the Reagan campaign struck a deal with Tehran to delay the release of the hostages in 1980", and "by October 1980, many in Iran's ruling circles were openly discussing the fact that a deal had been made between the Reagan campaign team and some Iranian religious leaders in which the hostages' release would be delayed until after the election so as to prevent President Carter's re-election."

    The 52 hostages were conveniently released a few minutes after Reagan's inauguration.

    Reagan was a B-movie actor; Trump a cheap reality TV actor.

    Two treasonous peas in a pod.

  50. Republicans always omit the underhanded and opportunistic behavior of their megastar, Ronald Reagan, when they reminisce about the old days: Philadelphia, MS, normalizing the SS at Bitburg Cemetery, Iran-Contra, ketchup as a vegetable, etc. In retrospect, Reagan's main talents were in constructing pithy sayings and speaking convincingly on TV. Sound familiar?

    Here's a thought: In thirty years or so, will Republicans be looking back wistfully at Trump as the "Great Negotiator"?

  51. The beginning of the end of the middle class began with the Reagan era.

  52. When oh when will the ridiculous lionizing of Reagan ever end??

    Reagan was a truly horrible president. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

  53. I agree with the assessment that the agreement lacked any details and was therefore essentially a non-agreement. But that's better than the Iran deal where we gave away everything for Iranian promises and limited access to selected nuclear sites.

    And I would give Kim all the meaningless photo ops he wants - maybe even a state dinner at the White House - but no relief on sanctions without verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. Hopefully John Bolton can keep Trump from making the mistakes of previous administrations.

  54. It’s just mind-blowing how differently American conservatives view the Iran deal than basically everyone else on earth, save Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose views are utterly dependent on theirs. Probably the best we can expect with North Korea is a plan that will be largely indistinguishable from the one we had with Iran, but since Trump has already offered a major concession while getting nothing from Kim, I’m not optimistic.

  55. The money we gave to Iran was their money - not ours. And the most intrusive oversight that we have ever implemented on a nuclear arsenal we have now in Iran. Trump won't and can't get anything anywhere near that with North Korea especially because of his pull out from the Iran deal.

  56. The fact that conservatives are foaming at the mouth over this gives me hope.

  57. The rot that this country is now wallowing in was first started by Ronald Reagan. After him, every time a Republican Administration has held power, this country has slowly slide further down the slippery slope to hatred, greed and selfishness. Party before country, self interest before national pride and doing the right things, that have always made this country a cut above all others.

    The Republican Party has turned into a party of haters.

  58. I would put it this way: Ronald Reagan had a moral compass, Donald Trump doesn't.

  59. Bret Baby,

    I’m willing to give Reagan credit for toppling Communism...

    But the idea that Ronnie or ANYONE had any sense BEFOREHAND THAT The Soviets were near collapse... is a stretch...and certainly not historical fact...

  60. "Machiavelli smiles from the grave."

    Very true, very apt.

  61. This looks more like Plaza Redeux.

  62. Dear Mr. Stephens, As a person of south Asian origin I am happy Mr. Trump is not like Reagan. No offense to people with mental disabilities, Mr. Reagan was not capable of even running a Banana stand. Mr.Trump has difussed a really bad situation so please give him some credit. Mr. Trump may be good according to some of you but at least he is not a war criminal like G.W.Bush etc.

  63. You mean diffused a really tense situation that he, DJT, created? Is that the one you mean???

  64. But...but...but... Trump said Kim loves his people, he wants to take care of his people. Isn't that enough? Don't you believe him? He's really a kind, gentle soul, under that rough exterior. Big Don's got this, no need to fret...

  65. Reagan may have been ignorant of policy details but he had advisers that weren't. Trump is just ignorant. Reagan knew what he did not know. Trump doesn't.

  66. "Kim plans to be ruling North Korea when one of Chelsea Clinton’s kids is president"

    That's when I stopped reading. Do you conservatives always have to take pot shots at the Clintons, even when the article is totally unrelated? Particularly their child and grandchilden.

  67. Yeah, they have to. It's in the conservative bye-laws someplace.
    Tiresome, isn't it?

  68. Donald Trump is not only the anti Reagan,he is anti our allies,anti America's interests and anti any dignified approach to the presidency.

  69. Well said. Remember that Trump is the rotting fruit under the GOP tree. He isn't the first to understand the red white and blue halo of a good tv rally. Reagan mastered the photo op. Patriotic chotzke nearly consumed him in many pictures. After that substance waited its turn in the closet while fabricated reality adjusted its crotch at the podium.
    Trump doesn't give a bleep if this NK deal blows up. He'll dazzle the digital and cable punditry with a threat to evaporate Kim's toilet.
    Don't forget, it's a GOP sponsored drama. They all have their fingers crossed that they just may get their own show!

  70. The scariest aspect of Trump's visit with Kim is its political shiftiness, many voters might be stupid enough to think he had a deal with Putin all along and they would forgive him for collusion. He is in many a master of deception.

    I hope I'm wrong but I know a few of his older generations supporters who think he is 'just amazing!', 'like Richard Nixon'. Need I say more?

    Ohhh, this is excruciating! I'd take Reagan any day now.

    Bill Evans, in Los Angeles

  71. Trump proclaimed a terrific relationship and very special bond with the despot Kim. Almost sounds like George W. Bush looking into Putin's eyes and seeing his soul. History repeats, but the question is ... are we at the tragedy or the farce phase?

  72. On one hand, Trump can be accused of giving Kim "legitimacy" by meeting with him with all the trappings of a summit. Kim and his family have long hungered for a world stage shared with the U.S., and Trump gave Kim that for nothing.

    On the other hand, the world stage Kim shared was with Trump. A charlatan at best, and a petty tyrant at worst. This "summit" will play well in Pyongyang. The rest of the world saw two fools patting one another on the back. That's not really "legitimacy" in my book.

  73. Right on, Brett- the shallow impulses that created failed businesses, fraudulent ‘university’ and bankruptcy are at play in Trump’s global showboating. He’s rude to friends because he doesn’t fear them and panders to dangerous thugs because he does.
    Between his boarding school survivalism & Roy Cohn’s reptilian power plays- Trump has no secret savvy-what we’ve seen is what we’ll get: big boasts, empty claims.

  74. Ronald Reagan, bad actor, bad President.

    Donald Trump, bad business man, bad President.

    Well qualified to be Republicans.

  75. Things you can do as the anti Reagan.
    Invade Canada instead of Grenada
    Rebuild the Berlin wall and cede it to Russia
    Abandon the former Warsaw Pact members.
    Shoot someone in the street rather than get shot.
    Treat China and Russia better than Great Brittan.
    Curse the PM of Canada.
    Dis all of your Allies

  76. For once, I agree completely with every point Mr. Stephens makes. Most notably, the notion that Trump made all the concessions while Kim made none.

    As so many point out the day after, that signed joint declaration is a giant nothing burger: the USA cancelled joint maneuvers in the Korean Peninsula as well as (in effect) agreed to reduce troop activities in the region; NK agreed to work toward peace and denuclearization. No teeth in that agreement whatsoever. On the NK side, denuclearization is a 15 year process with demonstrable accomplishment already in place with the destruction of one development side. Nothing more need be done until someone points out nothing more was done. For the USA, immediate action took place. Meanwhile "currently at tense peace" is the decades long status.

    And, the great negotiator has the gall to complain for years about the Iran deal, where Iran made many concessions and the USA only had to agree to repay a few billion dollars, dollars that were already Iran's own money from long ago? The word charlatan comes to mind.

  77. North Korea has been begging for a joint meeting with the United States for over forty-five years. Amazingly, Trump has granted their wish and thrown South Korea under the bus - and received nothing in return.

    This is a total victory for Kim Jong Un!

  78. Thank you. Well written. Much needed analysis.

  79. Brett, brilliant. But as we so devastatingly witnessed in 2016, no matter how brilliant the analysis of the Trump-induced psychosis may be, 63 MILLION voters nonetheless proved that all you have to do is give those voters a button-pushing, endlessly-repeated bumper sticker and they'll not only vote for you, they'll let you suck the blood from their veins.

    You can be sure that the Trumpmeister and his acolytes at Fox and elsewhere will endlessly repeat how brilliant, brave, bold and fearless our Dear Leader was in WINNING this battle and how much all prior US leaders were LOSERS.

    Weakness, Strength. Win, Lose. Us, Them. Safe, Danger. Evil, Good. These are the simplistic reductions that power-hungry despots have used for eons to get the fear-filled, simple-minded sheep to give those despots power.

  80. Trump next will ask ISIS , Hammas , Iran , Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) ...Al-Shabaab. ...
    Boko Haram , Mexico and all the others if they want hotels and resorts and our worries will be over ! He really is a stable genius !
    Why can’t he be like this with americans ?

  81. Russia should rejoin us in the G8, and Little Rocket Man is our new best ally. Seems very strange indeed, until one realizes that Trump is simply signing the USA up to join the “Axis of Evil “.

  82. I wonder if the Senate will sign off? Might be a challenge to get 2/3rds. If it doesn't, the attacks on those who vote against it will be 'Super Big...' I can imagine that this won't be ratified this year.

  83. Well I’m glad somebody on the right finally said it. Prepare for Fox vilification, my friend.

  84. Oh, Puleeeze! Can we talk about something else?

  85. Kim knows Trump is lazy; knows Trump thinks he's smart when he really operates fact-free. Kim is the opposite because he can be poisoned at any moment, so he works hard at being a despot. Kim had the pen used to sign the "non-deal" inspected by a stooge wearing latex gloves... priceless.

    Trump giving Kim that video is the key to play Trump by Kim.

    He sees that Trump wants him to buy into riches for his nation but like Stalin and every other dictator, Kim has no interest in that, just regime continuation. Trump always offers Big Cash, the Dream. So Kim strings Trump out pretending he's been co-opted too, since most of Trump's targets swallow the bait of endless riches. And Kim revives his regime economically all the while.

    If I wasn't American, I'd be hoping for Kim to take this carnival barker to the woodshed. My Fellow Americans, our collective sloth and magical thinking earned this president. He is exactly who we are. Trump is as American as America. Own it.

  86. Your final sentence is a hoot!

  87. For once, I agree completely with every point Mr. Stephens makes. Most notably, the notion that Trump made all the concessions while Kim made none.

    That signed joint declaration is a giant nothing burger: the USA cancelled joint maneuvers in the Korean Peninsula as well as (in effect) agreed to reduce troop activities in the region; NK agreed to work toward peace and denuclearization. No teeth in that agreement whatsoever. On the NK side, denuclearization is a 15 year process with demonstrable accomplishment already in place with the destruction of one development side. Nothing more need be done until someone points out nothing more was done. For the USA, immediate action took place. Meanwhile "currently at tense peace" is the decades long status.

    And, the great negotiator has the gall to complain for years about the Iran deal, where Iran made many concessions and the USA only had to agree to repay a few billion dollars, dollars that were already Iran's own money from long ago? The word charlatan comes to mind.

  88. For a man who professed never to telegraph his intentions, President Trump has been singing like a bird ever since this summit was announced. Also, if one watched the body language of both leaders, it was pretty apparent that Trump seemed overly eager to shake hands with Kim at every opportunity and always made the first move to do so. Again, Kim smiled far less than Trump – it was embarrassing to watch a U.S. president almost fawning over the dictator.

    Sorry Bret, even mentioning the Reagan-Gorbachev summit alongside the Trump-Kim ego trip is simply grotesque and insulting.

  89. Oh, and remember Reagan had Alzheimer’s. Trump probably doesn’t but he has the distinction of being in reality a failed businessman who has been able to construct an image of being successful through clever use of media. The truth of the matter is that he is a Putin puppet because the Russians own him due to the many loans they have given him and he follows the Putin playbook advocating the politics of eternity which is based on lies and looking at the present only, no future for anyone, wealth and power for his family and him, and we in the US are here only to make him and his cronies wealthy. I can only think that Republicans who support him do so because they want a piece of the action. They have to know what I am talking about. I say, vote them all out.

  90. Trump has "tells."
    You can tell when he is selling by the repeated emphasis.
    For example: We will save so much money by ending the joint military exercises, blindsiding the Pentagon, and even his v.p.
    Trump came away with a kiss and a promise.
    His distraction game is good too, the financials released on his daughters income during the N.K. meeting.
    De Niro, and Trump on 5th Ave., Scorsese or Tarantino as referee.

  91. I'm glad you acknowledge the importance of Gorbachev in Reagans negotiations with the soviet union. Gorbachev's openings were probably much more important than any of Reagan's taunts or threats, but one has to give Reagan credit for doing a good job in taking advantage of the opportunity.

  92. Gorbachev was the head of a superpower. Kim is the ruler of the next Pakistan.

    Having no choice, Trump merely backtracked his bellicose comments about using force, with a dog and pony show, and the media happily played along.

  93. Trump usually alternates between incoherence and demented behavior with only occasional albeit brief periods of lucidity which is not a formula for successful negotiations with a wily tyrant.

  94. I must have missed the brief periods of lucidity that you mention.

  95. I hope the #unsubscribe crowd can remove their ideological blinders long enough to see the value in this column. It's often much more powerful when a conservative lambasts Trump than a (predictable) left-winger. One gets to see from a new perspective just how lousy our current president is.

  96. Stephens mentions Geneva. He should have mentioned Reykjavik. Trump could not go into detail in his discussions with Kim, nor could he produce anything beyond the most basic commitments because he could not afford to have the talks collapse, as they did at Reykjavik. Trump wouldn't dare risk tackling any big issues because this summit was not about actually trying to accomplish anything.

    The point of Trump's presidency, if you will, is to keep the American people appropriately satiated with flashy imagery and emotionally charged and divisive statements that play to their basest instincts while Trump and his cronies stuff the courts with far-right ideologues and set up systematically deconstructing or corrupting the federal bureaucracy.

    Hence the attacks on trade with foreigners, and the empty "peace" with Kim that will "bring the troops home." From Asia. Where they aren't actually fighting anyone but where they are there to keep any fighting from breaking out, something that is most certainly in America's national interest. These kinds of messages appeal to the simple folk. The working stiffs that Trump counts on to be content with rhetoric and a reality-t.v. presidency.

  97. “For now, however, it’s hard to see what the Singapore summit has achieved other than to betray America’s allies, our belief in human rights, our history of geopolitical sobriety and our reliance on common sense. For what? A photo op with a sinister glutton and his North Korean counterpart?”

    It’s worth remembering that the current South Korean government is overrun by ideologues who sympathized heavily with the traditional North Korea’s stance that the US was responsible for the division of the Korean people (never mind the Korean war started by communists); that the US was exploiting Koreans economically (never mind the mind-blowing growth of South Korea in the past half century); the US was aiding SK’s human rights violations (never mind what NK is doing, and SK’s free elections). To them, Trump’s freeze of military drills and mention of troop withdrawals are a dream come true.

    Economic, military might and a robust democracy was costly to build.. and it’s all put at risk because of a man’s ego and admiration for dictators. l of its decades-long ally SK at risk. I fear for my and my home country’s future.

  98. Bret, you and your fellow non-Trumpist conservatives have to start a third Party, not with the ambition to become a major Party but to stop Trumpism. If a conservative Party could win even 10% of the vote in various elections, and especially in 2020, it would have saved the Republic. What are you and your colleagues waiting for?

  99. Though Mr. Stephens ultimately expresses a healthy skepticism of Trump's Korea deal, he makes sure to cushion it with a bedding of soft, fuzzy, conservative fairy tales. But it wasn't St. Reagan's "inner pragmatism and visionary imagination" that brought the Cold War to an end, it was Gorbachev's recognition that the West had won the economic race and that the Soviet system was about to collapse from exhaustion. Furthermore, that the Cold War would not last forever wasn't something "few others could see," it was in fact a central element of the containment strategy pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations and paid for with the blood of both Republican and Democratic soldiers. Likewise, if and when Kim is ready to strike a deal with the US and its allies, it will be because he realizes that his country's isolation is economically and socially unsustainable, not because he is charmed by Trump. The fable that it's the unique strategic vision of Republican presidents that leads to the triumph of open societies, rather than decades of carefully formulated policy and shared sacrifices by those societies, is what paved the way for an imperious charlatan like Trump.

  100. One of the few who could see the Cold War ending was Jimmy Carter. He ended sales of grain and technology and limited oil and gas exports to our adversary the Soviet Union. This hurt him politically and affected our economy but it also cramped the Soviet economy and military. (Reagan promptly reversed these on coming into office, thereby helping both economies.) Carter also enhanced the triad defense system ( he knew what this was) and foresaw the entire Soviet system failing. Reagan saw a far more powerful Russia. In a few years they were suing for peace.

  101. Didn't the fall of Gorbachev have something to do with our own approach to Russia during the subsequent years? Had we done things differently, things might have turned out differently for Russia. In hindsight, tearing down the wall might have been just the beginning of what perhaps could and should have been a far more serious, diligent, protracted effort and engagement on our part. Such thoughts indicate that the Trump effort will not make traction, given that this big showy meeting in Singapore might be all that he was looking for.

  102. Gorbachev thought that Western Europe and the United States would bail out the bankrupt Soviet state out of appreciation for his decision to let go of Eastern Europe. Whoops! Gorbachev failed to realize that the Unites States and its allies in Europe would always regard the USSR as an enemy, no matter how friendly it was behaving with Gorbachev in charge, and that they would never help out their mortal enemy. All of that talk from American officials about the great statesman Gorbachev, Gorbachev the visionary reformer, etc., etc., was just empty rhetoric. They were flattering Gorbachev for caving in and giving them everything they wanted. One of the several reasons why many Russians regard Gorbachev as an idiot.

  103. Six bankruptcies ten billion dollars squandered, the Trump deal making is neither policy nor strategy but delusional thinking on behalf of an even more delusional self-aggrandizement. End of story.

  104. The media and Americans in general in trying to understand the implications of the Singapore Summit are asking about Kim, "Can someone change so quickly?"

    Perhaps what is changing is not Kim but the way he is being presented to the American people by our government and media. Perhaps what he appears to be now is precisely who he has been all along. It is extremely unlikely that an essentially absolute ruler who is the incompetent buffoon portrayed over the years by our government and media would have been able to successfully organize and preside over a nuke and missile program that many countries with greater financial and material resources can only dream about.

    Perhaps we are so surprised because we have been kidding ourselves all along. Perhaps we may be where we are today precisely because the government came to believe its own spin on North Korean reality. Self-delusion rarely works out well.

    I do not know how this all started, whether successive administrations chose to believe analyses from a self-aggrandizing intelligence community that no President has chosen to hold accountable, or that good intelligence was superseded by political myopia and self-delusion, or something else. In any case, it is imperative that our government and media consider the possibility that, like it or not, Kim may have been a very capable and savvy leader all along.

    As to the summit itself, as with most "policies" and pronouncements, the devil is in the details, tweets irrelevant.

  105. One of Kim's teachers when he was educated in Switzerland testified that Kim was a modest well behaved, seemingly normal student who walked to school and gave no hint of being wealthy or the son of a powerful dictator. Trump, by comparison, was an unmanageable hell raiser from the very beginning, who bullied other students and had to be sent to military school. What does that tell us?

  106. Well, the media is still calling DJT leader of the free world....for some reason

  107. If brutalizing or killing those not in agreement or imprisoning and enslaving your citizens is savvy and capable. Kim may be the ideal leader to guide us into a future. Yikes.

  108. Thank you Bret Stephens for not pretending the emperor has clothes. Trump is in deep over his head in this office, and has an inability to distinguish between reality and what he wishes was true, in addition to being completely uninformed, and it is simply wishful thinking to suppose that these traits are not as obvious to foreign leaders are they are to the people who have dealt with him at home.

  109. The unstated and undisclosed result of this circus in Singapore is the effective end of the Korean War.

    One of the things that has held it all up was the concern that any agreement would formally recognize the the North’s brutal regime. Trump has resolved all this, he’s now best buddies with Asia’s version of Stalin, and he couldn’t be more thrilled. He even had a video made in anticipation of the conclusion where negotiation was mostly limited as to little more than agreeing on the frequency of bathroom breaks.

    How we got to this period of terminal weirdness should occupy pundits on MSNBC and CNN greatly while I visit the Deporation Memorial in Paris, which is where I happen to be, as a reminder of how it all can end.

  110. This comment reminds me, that those cherishing Mr. Trump’s supposed results always neglect, that his professional life, other than as a bitter m feeding reality star, was a string of failures, lies and bankruptcies. Claiming a result that is not there is part of that. ‘Effectively ending the Korean War’ is a laughable statement. The actual war has ceased a long time and the absence of a peace treaty (Germany has none) just allows for US troops to be there. And the threat? NC’s threat was always a retaliatory threat.
    Trump’s new buddy is the same who blows his uncle to shreds with a cannon.

  111. The end of the war means demobilization of land armies.

  112. Give it a year and see if North Koreans are able to plan and request immigration to the U.S. and if there is talk of a unified Asian currency similar to Bitcoin. Point being, whether or not there is an economic pivot toward North Korea quickly developing into one of the fastest growing economies, complete with stock market and fancy hotels built with Chinese know how.

  113. Fancy hotels named TRUMP.

  114. For years to come, North Korea will have an excuse to maintain their nucleair armament and suppression: negociations will never, never end. Meanwhile, sanctions will be lifted because of these talks. A very, very bad day for non-proliferation.

  115. By the mad master negotiator who gives up the store and gets little if substance in return

    US to this incompetent bully

    You’re fired.

  116. Very astute analysis.
    Also, expect Trump to undermine our democratic allies in that region. Also, he'd prefer his Korean resort to be in a unified Korean Peninsula run entirely by Kim, than in any kind of democratic unified Peninsula.

  117. Whatever concessions Trump may have received from Kim, I doubt if they included Trump's demand that Kim train his nuclear arsenal on Canada. Isn't Canada a national security threat according to Trump's trade policy?

  118. Trump seems to believe there are mothballed basic steel mills and aluminum smelters ready for immediate startup here in the US.

  119. The real problem is Trump and his administration are anti-fact.

  120. They believe that facts can be projected by sheer force of will.

  121. The fact that Trump had to meet with Kim alone for five minutes makes the entire summit suspect. Since he refused transparency in those moments you can bet this is where he dirtied whatever "deal" is supposedly on record. Recall Trump trying to beg Mexican President Nieto to use say he would pay for the wall during a phone call, the deals with Qatar and the affection for Putin. He is always looking for personal gain aside from adulation from his "base".

  122. Both of these clowns bamboozle their publics with propaganda. They just negotiated a you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours photo-op to be edited according to the needs of their respective isolated publics, one watching Kim's telescreens, the other watching Fox News.

  123. That was probably a 5 minute call to Putin.

  124. This is a very revealing moment in our history. Conservatives don't know what to make of Trump but support him because whether the like him or not, he is delivering a conservative agenda.

    True, that agenda is like putting lipstick on a pig but that's what it is and that's who they are.

    On the other hand, the Democrats, mistakenly described as the liberals, have assumed their usual role of opposing anything and everything Trump does, even if it might lessen the prospects of war.

    The party that supports gay marriage and civil rights also supports our wars for global domination, including Bush's tragedy in the Middle East.

    They supported Obama's destruction of our privacy and civil liberties. And the militarization of our police at home has proceeded in cities controlled by Dem's as well as the GOP.

    This is not to obscure the real differences between the two parties. But in international affairs, both pursue a dangerous and mendacious agenda to dominate and control. Bush sought regime change in seven nations but only achieved three. Obama's contribution was to add two more to the list.

    In the end, it is we the people who are the losers. Global warming is about to plunge the world into periods of massive human disruption. Our global strategy should be one of cooperation based on interdependence. Instead, we get war and the threat of more war.

    Trump's meeting with Kim may postpone this tragedy, but it will not alter its terrible logic. For that our voices must be heard.

  125. Disrupting everything in sight without any analysis in depth is the complete opposite of conservatism. Conservatives conserve, liberals liberate, reactionaries react, and adverbs are verbs modified to be used as nouns.

  126. Trump's slavishness to Kim out of an underlying goal of securing a "victory" at any cost, a Nobel Peace Prize down the road, is actually funny if you think of his presidency as a brilliant satirical movie.

    But if you view the world through pragmatism, it was an unmitigated disaster.

    Donald Trump was so eager to secure a "deal" that he must have warmed Kim up in that solitary room by offering him cessation of war games aas a prize he hadn't yet earned.

    Frankly, that alone was astounding, even before you had to listen to a syrupy Donald Trump describe Kim's personality in terms befitting of Ghandi.

    You really can't make this stuff up. The Times op-video mashup of the White House "glorified vision" mini-film was extremely funny, for antiTrumpers.

    But for the average Joe, who has been listening to Donald Trump paint his bumbling presidency as the second coming of God knows who, it smacked of a huge let down.

    So much hype, so little truth. The problem with Donald is less Kim than the country he's ruling. He makes the mistake of assuming that everything he wants, America wants.

    Which is a pretty tall order since most Americans don't have his connections, his chutz-pah, or his capacity for lying.

    We aren't yet halfway through the year, and Season Two of "Trump Goes to Washington is certainly topping Season One. Which begs the question, what on earth can come next?

  127. Trump sold out American interests so that HE could look good and have the appearance of a deal with Kim. Again, optics matter vastly more to Trump than substance.

  128. What price a Nobel Prize?

  129. The most optimistic take on the meeting between Trump and Kim is that Trump was forced into this rapprochement with Kim because North Korea had nuclear weapons, by some estimates as many as sixty.

    But unlike Reagan and Gorbachev who were rational actors(nobody was accusing Gorby of sending people to gulags, forced starvation or tearing apart an uncle with an anti aircraft weapons like Kim has done) the spectacle of Trum and Kim in Singapore leads to greater speculation about their motives.

    But few would dispute that Trump was forced into negotiations with North Korea because of Kim’s ability to point missiles at the U.S., South Korea and Japan sooner rather than later.

    The optimistic view is that deterrence is a fact that we’ve come to and talking, even in the bizarre meeting just held, is preferable to the diatribe between the countries just six months ago,

  130. "But few would dispute that Trump was forced into negotiations with North Korea because of Kim’s ability to point missiles at the U.S., "

    And Kim was forced into the summit because the sanctions were starving Kim's programs, supplies, and people. We paid for Kim's luxury vacation in Singapore. He came to the summit as a beggar with hat in hand; he left with more rewards than he (or we) ever imagined.

    Perhaps Trump will be building another Trump Tower hotel in North Korea? Part of the Deal...

  131. So Iran should get nuclear weapons in order to get the North Korean treatment from America.

    Indeed, Iran should seek the nuclear weapons rogue nations status of Israel, India and Pakistan.

  132. I would agree with reservation. Kim's nuclear weapons only forced Trump to the table due to Trump's poorly planned reaction to North Korean aggression. If Trump hadn't gone around tweet storming Kim, the destruction of Seoul and Tokyo wouldn't have been in question. We could have ignored Kim and responded with joint military exercises or even missile installations in South Korea.

    Instead, Trump provoked a legitimate threat to which the US was inadequately prepared to retaliate against. Fortunately, Moon stepped in and diffused the situation. Trump however has now doubled down on his mistake by giving away the kitchen sink. Good faith is one thing but this spectacle undermines the US in a big way. We have nothing show for it so far except Trump saving face at our expense.

  133. Reagan's diplomatic skills didn't make the world safer; while the 'great communicator' did a lot of sloganeering and used big words, the results were non-existent.
    Maybe Trump's' unconventional' style will do better.
    Whatever works, I say.

  134. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was very much existent! It didn't "end the Cold War" as Reagan supporters like to say, but it was an important arms control treaty.

  135. The end result of Reagan's diplomacy was the destruction of the Berlin Wall, hardly a non-existent event, and a metaphor for the end of the Cold War and the unification of Germany. "Whatever" is not a useful word or attitude in the world of foreign diplomacy.

  136. Reagan perpetuated the myth of the Strategic Defense Initiative aka Star Wars as a looming achievable scientific technological reality.

    Plus Reagan won the war against mighty Grenada.

  137. The overriding issue at the heart of the Trump-Kim summit "denuclearization" was not addressed. Since Hiroshima, there have been many who joined the nuclear club, but no one has left. That is the reality and the legacy of the nuclear age. It's weapons are the ultimate insurance to survival against all potential external threats. To have one nuclear power ask another to disarm is folly. And that is the ultimate difference between Reagan-Gorbachev and Trump-Kim. The Soviet Union may have collapsed under the pressure of the nuclear arms race, but Russia still has them. There is no "ultimate deal" to be made that requires North Korea to denuclearize. The only viable policy is the one that kept the peace during the nearly half century of the Cold War--MAD or Mutual Assured Destruction coupled with treaties on arms reductions. That policy called "detente" was a legacy of our last Trump-like President, Richard Nixon, and it's the only viable, peaceful path forward.

  138. Qaddafi unsubscribed. From the club and his daily update.

  139. We all hope that we are wrong. That Trump might actually be on to something - I truly wish him well - or that if he isn't, the adults in the room will take control and make things right. Even though we keep hearing that Americans have lost faith in our institutions, in fact we haven't-- Trump continues to be enabled by our profound belief that our institutions are strong enough to protect us from one term of executive misadventure. But our faith is misplaced. We know that the framers feared despotism and built safeguards into our constitutional structure. Domestically, those safeguards are actually working, for now. The problem is that in foreign affairs, our institutional framework is built solely on trust, with far fewer checks and balances on the president's authority, except in the case of declaring war (but not starting a war). We've seen what Trump is doing with our once-trusting allies. So that feeling you might have about the adults in the room? They're probably not there.

  140. "It would also be nice to think that Trump is playing geopolitical chess at a level plodding pundits can scarcely conceive."
    But we know better. What has Trump ever done in his past that would indicate that Trump plays chess at all?

  141. One thing we know for sure, Mr. Stephens, is that the Singapore meeting achieved even less than the negotiations with Iran did, and you called that a bad deal. Iran currently has no nuclear weapons. North Korea does. The Iran deal did not require a summit meeting with the American President, The Singapore meeting was a summit meeting with the American President. The Iran deal appeared (and still appears) to be a solid basis for further negotiations. People are already talking about how Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim might either or both renege. Mr. Trump was eager to pull out of one, while he wanted the other one really badly.

    At least neither appeared to have your support. We can always take comfort in that, I suppose.

  142. We should not forget that Trump raised tensions in the first place. Trump and his team were so offended by the traditional threats of the Kim that Trump elevated the possibility for war. Everything Kim does is to keep rule in his own country. That said, Trump is also in a situation that goes back to the original crisis in 1950. He is part of a larger saga that Truman mismanaged to start. To bring peace now, however it occurs, is probably good. The US cannot always get the best deal, despite what Trump thinks. He finally went against his own vision and hopefully it works out well.

  143. The US media collectively failed to notice what was happening in China during the Singapore Swing. President Xi of China hosted Putin in Beijing. These two were close by watching their man Kim Jung-un dance with their puppet Trump.
    All three wanted the promise to suspend war 'games' on and near the Korean peninsula with the extended goal of reduction in US troops. And they were the big winners because Trump gave them exactly that without apparently consulting anyone else.
    Talk of peace is always better than comparing the size of nuclear buttons. This night of the stars show produced and directed by Trump was big on production value only. The details have been left for the days to come.
    The most honest moment of the whole TV show was when Trump admitted that if in 6 months he must say that North Korea has not lived up to the promises made, he will have to make up a story why and blame someone else.
    As far as Trump is concerned, it is all a fake show for ratings. The others are playing for real and they have their moves already planned out. Kim will move forward with the help of China and Russia to extend some economic relief to his citizens while keeping his country closed to the prying eyes of the west.

  144. Here is a story. In a certain town, there are two physicians, whom I will call Ann and Liz. Of course the two are competitors. Ann does not have a high opinion of Liz and advises her friends not to consult Liz. All quite ordinary.

    Now suppose a friend of Ann's takes her child to Liz. Ann is not going to predict a good outcome. She may predict dire results. If the child does not get well, Liz will say, "I told you so." If the child does get well, Liz will say, "It was just a fluke. She is still a lousy physician."

    Moreover, Ann is not going to admit that she might have some prejudice against Liz as competitor. In order for her judgments to have credibility Ann must pretend that her judgments are objective. She may even think so herself.

    Now replace Ann by the Democrats and Liz by Trump. Everything that the Democrats say now becomes completely understandable. It is inevitable that they will predict dire results from the Trump-Kim meeting.

    And, anything good which happens under Trump is either a fluke or it is really Obama who gets the credit for (say) the low unemployment.

    And, I do NOT blame either Ann or the Democrats. It is perfectly human to act as they do.

    But WE would be fools if we take Ann or the Democrats at face value, which is what far too many of my friends are doing.

  145. You leave a few things out here. Let's say that Liz has a "medical degree" from a diploma mill and that the AMA has given her a very low rating, but she breezes into town and with the aid of financial backing from shady sources and sets up a clinic. Most other doctors, and not just Ann, will tell you privately that Liz is incompetent, but once she establishes a practice, professional ethics make them feel obliged to pretend that they respect her. She then puts huge billboards along the highway, featuring glamor pictures of herself, and she shows up at town hall meetings mainly to shove herself in front of cameras and scream about vaccines or flouridation or whatever happens to be the latest pop hysteria. Suppose she's spotted cheering at a KKK rally. Would you trust your kids to that doctor?

  146. Sorry about the typos. Here the correction.

    " She may predict dire results. If the child does not get well, Ann will say, "I told you so." If the child does get well, Ann will say, "It was just a fluke. Liz is still a lousy physician."

  147. Comparing Reagan and Trump is useless. Different times, different era…

    Proverb “trust but verify” is completely useless here.

    The first step is to create a relationship. Trump did it. He understands perfectly well that treating people nicely is prerequisite for “bona fide”. That opens all the doors.

    If you treat people with respect, they will respond positively too. Trump is trying to build up the trust level.

    There is no single reason for America and North Korea to be in conflict or have hostile relationship.

    Trump wants to end it. His actions are a slap in the face to all presidents since Nixon, including Reagan, because none of them fixed this problem.

    Richard Nixon should have done it. The very moment he created the cordial relationship with China he should have signed the peace treaty with Pyongyang.

    The internal problems in North Korea are none of our business. We cannot support and protect the tyrants in power like we have been doing in Egypt and Saudi Arabia (or Shah’s Iran), but signing the peace treaty with any of them is a part of presidential duty to protect America.

    The regime of Kim Jong Un is not our problem. Everything a single bullet can change is not a matter of our national security.

    Our chronic support for the current allies that oppress their local population or occupy the other countries for decades certainly is.

  148. Why does my mind's eye keep bringing up an old, old photograph of Neville Chamberlain, debarking from a plane and waving a piece of paper that he described as "peace in our time". That was in the October of 1938, and "our time" lasted a bit less than a year.

  149. Great analysis; splendid final line. I expect we’ll see news of Trump hotel in NK any day now.

  150. Thank heavens for Mr. Stephen’s continuing voice of reason in regards to Trump. As it appears that more and more legislators are reluctant to pop their heads out of the foxhole, we need to hear that real conservatives haven’t all abandoned their principles in fealty to the president. As Breitbart, Fox, and much of the right wing outlets start sounding like state run media, it’s good to see (at least some) journalists do what most of them got into the business for in the first place.

  151. Imagine how this will play out; Kim will stall and stall to a point where Trump sees he was played then goes ballistic with the embarrassment of it all, with truly serious consequences. How can this possibly end well?

  152. First of all, hopefully Chelsea Clinton's children will not be president. There are many other children candidates out there in the world. Secondly, this is an awfully vitriolic opinion piece. Could the author tone his language down to become more "credible"?
    On another front, could Trump now proceed to try to re-open relations with Cuba too? Cuba is far less threatening to the US than North Korea, more pro-market even within the socialist/communist framework, more open to US business. Is it that South Koreans are more tolerant, more willing to normalize relations with the North than Miami Cubans with their counterparts in the island? Is there any sophisticated leader and counterpart to Moon Jae-in in the Cuban American community of Miami or the US? (Certainly not Rubio and less so Ted Cruz).

  153. Given what's at risk to this country and the rest of the world, I'd say the author was pretty restrained.

  154. One distinction between Trump and Reagan was that Reagan had a first class cabinet and was comfortable working with cleverer, better informed people. He didn't need to be the smartest guy in the room. A second distinction was his affability which made him comfortable to work with. Compare the people in the Reagan administration to the revolving door crowd of hucksters, self promoters, sycophants, no-nothings that make up the Trump court. What a parcel of rogues in a nation.

  155. Bret, absolutely excellent analysis and writing. Thank you.

  156. The Donald believes in “my touch, my feel".

    David Cameron did the same in the UK and now we have Brexit - unintended consequences.

  157. I was never a big Reagan fan, but I never doubted that he could conduct the business of America with respect, intelligence, and common decency. And even though I wasn't an all-in Reagan supporter, I never doubted that he had fundamental American values central to his being. It is frightening to watch Trump give away American moral leverage to a despot because there are significant and verifiable doubts that Trump has any fealty to American values or respect for human decency.

  158. This op-ed is rightly cynical. Some may cringe at the comparison with Reagan and say that to be "anti" is a good thing. Good luck with that view. Reagan's foreign policy had significant flaws and did engage in some high risk behaviors. But he and his team were credible on the world stage. They strengthened, not weakened traditional alliances. The US has never been known for compassionate foreign policy- despite the public brainwashing. Cynical power triangulation has always been at its core. However, it generally has sought stability, allied support and economic stability (admittedly at the expense of third world nations). Trump has thrown all of this out the window- taking the the grade if you will from a C- D+ to an E- The worst of all worlds.

  159. Trump’s idea of diplomacy is “ Let’s see what happens “. Comparing him to past presidents is futile. He should be evaluated, and treated, as a mental patient, not as a president or a diplomat.

  160. In this insipid President's mind, he may see this as high risk, tight wire diplomacy. However bold moves, to be POSITIVELY meaningful in areas this complex require extensive groundwork, pre-concessions and a strong framework for peaceful negotiations. The real danger here is that the US having postured this way- granted with some element of undetermined South Korean support- will be boxed in if Kim should renege or violate the PERCEIVED (or WILLED) intent of these negotiations. This will in turn INCREASE and not DECREASE the likelihood for confrontation.

    Those on the Left make take solace in Trump's rejection of military exercises as provocative and wrong- but I can assure you the nature of these negotiations are so inverted and perverted as make the situation with this concession even more dangerous.

    But in the realm of sound bytes, phony posturing and Fox News disinformation- this is a solid victory for all parties.

  161. We should remember the conversations between Trump and Mexico President Peña Nieto as reported in Vox right after inauguration last year.

    ' “We find this completely unacceptable for Mexicans to pay for the wall that you are thinking of building,” Peña Nieto told Trump. Trump told Peña Nieto “I have to” say Mexico will pay for the wall because “I have been talking about it for a two year period.” Trump suggested they both say “we will work it out” when asked about it.'

    Clearly, Peña Nieto has the integrity of telling the truth to his people, and our people. Who knows what Kim is willing to do in Trump's reality TV show in boost its rating? There was an old word for it: propaganda.

  162. Trump has (note: "has"," as in fait accompli) cast off alliances established before he was born in favor joining forces with an Asia-only axis: North Korea, China, Russia. Barring a revolt --soon, very soon-- in Congress, this is a done deal.

    America's last democratically held national election occurred on Nov. 6, 2012. The 2016 contest does not count, thanks to the weight of Putin's thumb on the result. If Trump is not impeached and ridden out of Washington during the two years after this year's election, Trump will "win" the 2020 "election" with a 90%+ margin of victory, and he will still complain it was rigged against him.

    RIP United States of America.

  163. I believe that the apt comparison is with Chamberlain's Peace in our Time.

  164. Another big difference between Donald and Ronald is that Donald is currently under a very expansive investigation by a very skilled team led by a very able, very special prosecutor. I think that Donald is desperate to prove his worth by accomplishing something no other President has done to immunize himself against what he knows may come out of the Mueller probe. The results of this effort with North Korea may well be that he got played, but he will spin it to his supporters and so will Fox News so that his base will be even more protective of their chosen leader.

    I really believe that every move this malignant narcissist makes needs to be viewed through the prism of how it benefits him.

  165. Nixon goes to China? His diplomatic accomplishments were genuine, but they didn't save his Presidency.

  166. Trump could have easily traded ending the joint exercises for the immediate dismantling of the cannons that are aimed at Seoul.

  167. Neither Ronald Reagan nor Donald Trump are considered very smart nor wise men. Neither man hsd an intellectual socioeconomic political scientific technological shining mind light.

    But Reagan, unlike Trump, was mature, temperate and secure. Reagan served in the American military and had only two wives.

    Kim Jong Un rationally and reasonably wants to remain alive and in power. Mr. Kim took power when he was 26 years old and is now 34 years old. Just old enough to be in the House but not yet old enough to be President. Yet Mr. Kim has more experience and talent governing a nation state than Donald Trump and his Cabinet and White House staff combined.

  168. Re trump's "“My touch, my feel.”"

    Ego-mania!

  169. Never forget that if Geneva Redux eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, this very collapse globally unleashed the worst in the so-called Western World: the overwhelming power of financial capitalism , free to impose values far from John Winthrop's City upon a Hill as Reagan mythifically cherished it, the rebirth of religious fundamentalism ( first against USSR then against the West ), the strengthening of the government seen as a problem and not a solution, the sacralization of the individual to the benefit of lucrative entertainment...I could go on.
    If Donald Trump personal strategy works, one may well wonder what could be unleashed afterwards, other than taking for granted the general rejection of multilaterism to the benefit of self-centered powers essentially driven by their own greed.

  170. There was no question that Ronald Reagan loved his country and what he did was on behalf of the country. People may question some of his policies and beliefs but no one could question his patriotism and love of country.

    Donald Trump only loves himself.

  171. Great analysis, Mr. Stephens! Clearly, Trump believes that all complex problems are actually simple ones, that everything is reducible to attitude and personality, that Kim's history of atrocity, murder, forced starvation, political imprisonment, nuclear threats should be swept under the rug (let bygones be bygones ---- simple, like a good bankruptcy wipes away the past financial complexities gone wrong). He just wants to sign his name no matter the contents of the document and win the Nobel Prize, all his own past misdeeds (not to mention those of Cohen, Manafort, Gates, Flynn, Papadopoulos, junior Trump, Stone) hoovered up and dumped in history's dust bin: a cakewalk!

  172. Depressingly true. Trump looked into Kim's eyes, saw another dictator he liked -- or at least could share a kimchee burger with -- and gave away the farm. He legitimized Kim's murderous regime in the eyes of the world, weakened our security umbrella for South Korea and Japan, promised to remove our troops from the Korean Peninsula and gave Russia and China the nod, albeit unwittingly, to lift sanctions on North Korea. All this for nothing more than a photo op.

  173. Mr. Stephens you have absolutely no idea what the details of the discussions were about, so why embarrass yourself by speculating. Not only do we talk to despots, we support and prop them up, so please spare us your pearl clutching that we would discuss, with a nuclear power, the prospects of giving up those nuclear weapons.
    It truly is amazing watch both the neocons and neoliberals panic and scramble to try in every way to sabotage this potential deal that is a work in progress.
    While hardly a Trump supporter, I appreciate that he has finally broken with the ossified established order and is at least trying something. I heard some MSNBC commentator derisively say this was unprecedented. Do you mean like when Nixon went to China?
    Who knows where this may end up, but at least we are talking, and as long as we are doing that we are avoiding military conflict.

  174. Kim is not, unlike Gorbachev, the leader of a superpower. He is the leader of a rogue nation who just scored a huge PR coup.

    Reagan wasn't all that but he was surrounded by serious people. Something Trump most definitely is not.

  175. Very smart column. Thank you, and I hope the Trump supporters start paying attention. I was no fan of Reagan, and I understand quite fully that on the domestic front, Trump, Ryan and McConnell are hoping to finish what Reagan started, the destruction of America's safety net. But I didn't doubt that Reagan, while not a detail or policy oriented fellow himself, had the good sense to find and listen to smart advisers, and I knew he wouldn't betray this country to its enemies. The good old days.

  176. The analogy with Reagan and the collapse of the Soviet Union is tempting. The obvious differences in character and motives are well articulated by Mr. Stephens.
    In the broader Geopolitical sphere at the time, the crumbling Soviet Union had nowhere and no one to turn to. This is not the case for North Korea.
    The duplicitous behavior of China and how far it's economic tentacles reach into the calculus of our European allies may well hold the fate of the Trump initiative. Seems like there is more than one leader to charm and establish a Reaganesque type of relationship with.

  177. The entire episode in Singapore could have been a cleverly staged parody. As such, it would have been more believable than the event itself. It would all be hilarious if the stakes weren't so lethal for the human species.

  178. It was just two hucksters conducting a photo-shoot to be processed separately by their own propaganda ministries.