Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Trump show requires scrutiny

By Jerome Keating

The fanfare and hype of the much-touted meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has passed.

However, since so many gathered to watch this spectacle without substance, a key question lingers: “It was theatrical and almost entertaining, but so what?”

No one can deny that the meeting ran smoothly. Months earlier, the two adversaries were threatening to “nuke” each other and yet they stood together like best buds.

Yes, the Singapore schmooze ran smoothly. It ran so smoothly that it left prescripted, prestaged impressions. Like two aging actors who realize that time is running out and neither has yet claimed an Oscar or Nobel Prize, Trump and Kim found agreement in meeting. Something had to be done.

And so, as if following the lead of rivals Velma and Roxie in the musical Chicago, the stage was set for Trump and Kim to strike the pose and jointly sing I Can’t Do It Alone.

That said, what else drove this summit of two apparently preening peacocks?

For Trump the answer is easy: He is a showboat, a grandstander. He feeds on the attention-grabbing adrenaline rush such things bring. He loves to “wing it,” boasting of his self-acclaimed “gut feelings.”

That is his style. He can be good, of course, at working one-off real-estate deals, especially where the needs of oligarchs can be exploited, but his weakness remains that he lacks the know-how to carry through in anything of substance that demands continued attention.

Thus, in the past, Trump failed in numerous ventures ranging from running a decent university to operating a profit-making casino.

Trump’s inability to handle this nitty-gritty and carry through is further seen in the fact that the water problem in Flint, Michigan, remains and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico still suffers. For those locations, once they are off the grid of showboat diplomacy, Trump loses interest.

Further, Trump has never been a team player. At any meeting that demands team effort, he maintains his reputation of being the alleged “turd in the punchbowl.” He is more adept at insulting allies than working with them, as the recent G7 meeting showed.

Thus, as regards Singapore, the commemorative coins had been printed and Trump needed a new distraction from adult film star Stormy Daniels’ accusations and the ongoing investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Whatever else would go down, he could at least brag and say: “See, I met with Kim Jong-un. No US president has done that.”

Yes, the devil remains in the details and so far the only detail is a signed paper that they met.

The deeper question therefore is why Kim agreed to the meeting. Here the lack of a free press in North Korea makes it more difficult to find an answer. What challenges is Kim facing that drove his need to meet?

The summit certainly helped him cement his national prestige. After decades of effort, North Korea got the president of the US to meet with their leader as an equal and without concessions. However, there needs to be something more.

Perhaps this was hastened by the collapse of the North’s main nuclear test site in Punggye-ri and it needs time to rebuild.

Or perhaps Kim was ready for a new stage of developing his country’s economy.

However, a more focused answer revolves around the long-term plans for who Kim’s successor will be. How can this be worked out? How can he guarantee that North Koreans get a better deal?

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