So, I haven’t been writing much about Our Only President, because (a) why would I put myself through that, and (2) why would any of you read that. Particularly since there are many people writing very well about this administration. National political reporting is at a tremendously high level right now, and frankly punditry (or analysis, if we are feeling positive) is as good as I remember it. I don’t feel as if there’s a gap for me to fill, even in my own day.
But today, it turns out, I actually don’t find my opinion already in the various analyses of Our Only President’s triumphant summit with the Only Leader of North Korea. So, what the hell, here goes:
Let’s start with my take on the man from two years ago, because nothing I have learned since then has changed my mind on his character: he thinks everyone is either a grifter or a sucker. I’ll say it in more positive terms, if you like: his particular political genius lies in his ability to utterly reject conventional wisdom, expert analysis or even settled fact, and that derives (imao) from that fundamental character trait of believing that everyone is either a chump or on the make—that whatever somebody is telling him that he doesn’t like, he can reject. Either it’s wrong because the guy’s an idiot or it’s a lie because the guy’s a grifter.
Now, let me be clear: I personally don’t believe that. I think that’s a terrible way to live, and I think he’s squandered a lot of the potential effectiveness of his job by rejecting stuff that was actually correct. But it’s also true that a lot of the crap that he decided not to believe was actually not true. He did not, in fact, have to release his tax returns. He can, in fact, use the Presidency to promote his business. The Republican leadership will, in fact, back up his obstruction of justice (at least for a while). He has been wrong a bunch of times, but he has been right a bunch of times, too.
So, here we are: everybody told him it would be very, very difficult to have a summit and come to an agreement with Kim Jong Un. They were grifters or suckers, because it turns out that it wasn’t that hard at all. Right?
The US has given up a bunch of stuff to get it, but, and this is the analysis that I haven’t seen elsewhere, the stuff that we gave up is considered to be important only by grifters and suckers. We’ve strengthened a dictator’s grip on his country—so what? We’ve agreed to stop the military exercises with South Korea—who cares? We’ve agreed to some security guarantee of some unspecified kind—that doesn’t mean we actually have to do anything, does it? We’ve given up the leverage that not agreeing to a summit gives us—what’s the use of that leverage if we don’t have a summit?
Is he wrong? How the hell would I know? But it seems to me that what we’ve given up in this deal is almost all intangible, in one way or another, and the value of that those intangibles is inherently speculative, as all leverage is. I don’t think we’ve gained anything of value, mind you, but if we haven’t given up anything of value, then maybe it isn’t a bad deal, after all. And I do try to keep in mind that a lot (not all, but a lot) of the intangibles that Our Only President rejected as worthless or at least way overvalued turned out to be in fact way overvalued.
I mean, to be fair, my expectation, as occasional Gentle Reader David Bernstein put it back in May, was that Kim Jong Un would literally walk out of the summit meeting with Donald Trump’s pants, so perhaps my expectations were low.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,