Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Well, this ought to go over well in a country that can reach our shores with nukes and can inflict devastating violence on a couple of our allies:
TEL AVIV—President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un got “on his hands and knees and begged” for their summit to be held after Mr. Trump canceled it last month....

Speaking at an investment conference in Israel hosted by the “Globes” newspaper, Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Trump canceled the summit last month because senior North Korean officials insulted top Trump administration officials.

“They also said they were going to go to nuclear war with us, they were going to defeat us in a nuclear war,” Mr. Giuliani said. “We said we’re not going to have a summit under those circumstances.”

After Mr. Trump canceled the meeting, Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.”

In the past, Josh Marshall has talked about the "bitch-slap" theory of politics. Here's what Marshall wrote about that in 2006:
If you think back to the Swift Boat debacle of 2004, the surface issue was John Kerry’s honesty and bravery as a sailor in Vietnam. Far more powerful, however, was the meta-message: George Bush slaps John Kerry around and Kerry either can’t or won’t hit back. For voters concerned with security and the toughness of their leaders, that’s a devastating message — and one that has little or nothing to do with the truth of the surface charges. Someone who can’t fight for himself certainly can’t fight for you. At the time I called it the “Republicans’ bitch-slap theory of electoral politics.”
It's an ugly term that Marshall, understandably, doesn't like to use anymore, but it's a memorable, pungent name for a real phenomenon. And now we have -- pardon the expression -- bitch-slap diplomacy from Giuliani, which would seem to be a contradiction in terms. Giuliani seems to want to demonstrate that North Korea won't respond to this insult. That, I guess, is part of the peace process.

It's hard to say whether Giuliani blurted this out on his own without previously consulting Trump or whether he and Trump agreed on this message beforehand. But the administration clearly wants North Korea's posture to be one of supplication, to judge from this Bloomberg story:
The White House wants North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to a timetable to surrender his country’s nuclear arsenal when he meets President Donald Trump next week in Singapore....

Trump has been advised not to offer Kim any concessions, as the White House seeks to put the onus on the North Koreans to make the summit a success, one U.S. official said. The president is determined to walk out of the meeting if it doesn’t go well, two officials said.
Daniel Larison writes:
Despite some recent remarks from the president suggesting greater flexibility, it seems that the administration continues to expect North Korea to agree to make major concessions in exchange for nothing. This is an unreasonable expectation....

North Korea is not coming to the meeting as a supplicant.... If North Korea is going to concede anything significant, it is going to require that the U.S. give up something of equal value to us. The administration’s past inflexibility on this point does not bode well, and they will have to set it aside if they are going to get anything out of the summit meeting.
But I wonder if there's a grain of truth in what Giuliani says. We know that Trump seems desperate for this summit, but Kim might be overeager as well, craving validation on the world stage just the way Trump does.

Still, Kim got his back up when Mike Pence and John Bolton compared North Korea to Libya. Now -- see the clip above -- Giuliani says that Israel should treat the Palestinians the way Trump is treating North Korea, which seems like another slap at Kim.

I don't know how this plays out, but let me remind you that Giuliani wanted to be Trump's secretary of state. It's conceivable that he would have been a worse choice for that job than John Bolton was for national security adviser.

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