No cockeyed optimists here
The news from the talks between North and South Korea lately sounds almost too good to be true.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un told South Korea’s Moon Jae-in that he would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange if the United States committed to formally end the Korean War and pledged never to attack the North, according to officials in Seoul.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, said the Trump administration is not “starry-eyed” or “naive” about the pending negotiations.
“We know the history. We know the risks. We’re going to be very different,” Pompeo said, “We’re not going to make promises. We’re not going to take words. We’re going to look for actions and deeds.”
Bolton said President Donald Trump “sees the potential here for historic agreement,” but also sees that “the potential for no deal at all is also there. And we’re not going to know until we actually have the meeting.”
Trump voices the same caveats, but has a hard time containing himself as he tastes potential triumph. Describing to a Saturday night campaign rally how big a role he had in bringing about the Kim-Moon summit, he said: “I’ll tell you what. Like, how about everything?’ ” See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler.
Janison: China’s skin in game
It’s good that the tone of U.S.-North Korean dialogue has moved beyond childish insults.
But it’s not just skepticism about Kim Jong Un’s sincerity that requires caution. There must also be realism over what China will do to protect its own interests. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Trump: Putin’s messing with me
Given his past willingness to take Vladimir Putin at his word that the Russians didn’t interfere in the 2016 election, it was startling to hear one Trump accusation during the rally: that Putin is orchestrating an effort to sow chaos against Trump.
Trump was reacting to a comment by Natalia Veselnitskaya — the Russian lawyer brought into a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Contrary to her past denials, she told NBC News she was a Kremlin “informant” at the time.
Trump offered this Bolshoi-worthy spin: “If she did that,” it was “because Putin and the groups said, ‘You know this Trump is killing us. Why don’t you say that you’re involved with government so that we could go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic.’ ”
A new beginning in innuendo
Trump held the stage in Washington Township, Michigan, for 90 minutes — long enough for a satellite to orbit the earth.
Along with his greatest hits, there was new material: attacks on Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), accusing him of spreading “vicious rumors” about Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician whose nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs has been withdrawn.
“We need to vote against guys like Jon Tester that can destroy a man with innuendo,” Trump said. “ ... I know things about Tester that I could say, too, and if I said them, he’d never be elected again.”
Does he really? Trump’s not known to hold back on such things. Trafficking in innuendo has been a trademark of his, most notably in promoting doubts about Barack Obama’s U.S. origins.
Jackson is back at the White House Medical Unit, but won’t be returning to his old job as Trump’s personal physician, two senior administration officials told Politico.
Sean Conley, a Navy officer who took over those duties last month, will continue in the role, the officials said.
Trump weighed in remotely via tweet on another Saturday night event — the “very big, boring bust” of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where “the so-called comedian really ‘bombed.’ ”
Michelle Wolf’s opening line: “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with.” Critics — and not just from Trump’s side — faulted much of the rest of her performance as more mean than funny.
One particular target of the Comedy Central “Daily Show” alumna was press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated on the dais.
Debate swirled on Twitter Sunday whether Wolf’s gibe on Sanders’ makeup — “she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye” — was shaming her looks or in some way a compliment.
"The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy “comedian” totally bombed (couldn’t even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance). Put Dinner to rest, or start over!"
What else is happening
- An enormous contract for Veterans Affairs information technology has become embroiled in intrigue over which Trump insiders hold sway, according to Politico.
- A Politico profile of Sanders delves into why she’s a Trump favorite. Her composure is a welcome contrast to the hyper-flappable Sean Spicer, who raised Trump’s anxiety levels. Even when saying things that “can be crazy,” her manner is “totally sincere.”
- Bolton said the United States had the “Libya model” in mind for future dealings with North Korea. That could be a tough sell with Kim, given that Libya’s disarmament was followed by the overthrow and murder of its leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
- A new mega-donor is emerging for the GOP in election races in Mississippi, Montana and West Virginia. He's Richard Uihlein, a shipping-supplies magnate from Illinois.
- The Trump administration has a record number of job vacancies, from low-level appointments to the Cabinet, Politico reports.
- Contrary to Trump’s claims, a House intelligence committee report that found “no evidence” of collusion between his campaign and Russia should not be taken as vindication of the president, said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). That question is best left to special counsel Robert Mueller, Gowdy said.
- Trump doesn’t believe the growing consensus of Republican leaders, that the party could lose both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, The New York Times reports.
- A tree-mendous White House mystery: What happened to the oak sapling that Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted on the South Lawn Monday? It’s gone, with no official explanation. The tree was a gift from Macron, taken from a World War I battle site where 2,000 U.S. troops died.