The Morning Jolt


An Extraordinarily Hopeful Handshake between the Two Koreas

Future Nobel peace laureates?

Peace in our time on the Korean Peninsula? Let’s not get too optimistic; if any regime ever justified the mentality of “trust but verify,” it’s the North Koreans. But we’re light-years away from the sudden missile launches and nuclear tests of just a few months ago.

The leaders of North and South Korea agreed on Friday to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and, within the year, pursue talks with the United States to declare an official end to the Korean War, which ravaged the two nations from 1950 to 1953.

At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a peace treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades, while ridding it of nuclear weapons. A peace treaty has been one of the incentives North Korea has demanded in return for bargaining away its nuclear weapons.

“South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” read a statement signed by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, after their meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.

The agreements came at the end of a day of extraordinary diplomatic stagecraft emphasizing hopes for reconciliation and disarmament that was broadcast live around the world, beginning with a smile and handshake that Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon shared at the border and extending to a quiet, 30-minute talk they had near the end of the day in a wooded area of the village.

One of the fascinating bits of information to surface this week is the report that “the mountain above North Korea’s main nuclear test site has likely collapsed, rendering it unsafe for further testing and requiring that it be monitored for any leaking radiation.” Whoops! In other words, Pyongyang might really be ready to talk about giving up their nuclear program because they accidentally reduced a big chunk of that program to radioactive rubble in September.

The concept of North and South Korea coexisting in peace in the not-so-distant future is a lot to get our arms around. And speaking of a lot to get our arms around . . . Moon and Kim hugged!

Anonymous Sources 1, Ronny Jackson 0

I don’t want to harp on this, but it sure sounds like a dedicated doctor and Navy rear admiral just had his reputation destroyed by anonymous sources and opportunistic lawmakers.

Maybe Ronny Jackson wasn’t the right man to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. He certainly didn’t have the traditional experience in managing large organizations. It’s easy to believe that President Trump selected him based primarily on his personal rapport with Jackson and the physician’s energetic public insistence that the president is in fine health. And if Senate Democrats had wanted to debate his nomination on those terms, that would be an expected and necessary discussion.

But Democrats, and in particular, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, didn’t want to debate the nomination on just those terms. They laid out a laundry list of allegations of shockingly reckless and irresponsible behavior — but they relied entirely on anonymous sources, and with no dates, times, or places attached to those allegations. Democrats contended that every allegation was verified by two sources, but we never learned anything to indicate whether they would be in a position to witness the alleged drunken and reckless behavior.

Late yesterday, the U.S. Secret Service issued a statement:

Over the last 48 hours, media outlets have alleged that U.S. Secret Service personnel were forced to intervene during a Presidential foreign travel assignment in order to prevent disturbing (former) President Barack Obama. The Secret Service has no such record of any incident; specifically, any incident involving Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.

A thorough review of internal documents related to all Presidential foreign travel that occurred in 2015, in addition to interviews of personnel who were present during foreign travel that occurred during the same timeframe, has resulted in no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate. The physical health and wellbeing of Secret Service personnel when fulfilling our protective mission is of paramount importance to the Secret Service. Rear Admiral Jackson, in his role as the official White House Physician, has provided years of dedicated support to the men and women of the Secret Service, often miles from home and under difficult travel conditions, in order to ensure our personnel are healthy and prepared to execute our critical mission.

The Secret Service is grateful for the dedicated and outstanding professional service Rear Admiral Jackson has provided to the agency – and more importantly – his role supporting the greater Presidential protection security apparatus.

(A point worth keeping in mind when the U.S. Secret Service categorically denies an allegation of a White House doctor’s drunken behavior on an overseas trip: the U.S. Secret Service has had its own scandals of drunken and other scandalous behavior on overseas trips in recent years.)

The New York Times tries to sort out the allegations in a follow-up piece this morning. There’s a clear divide. The on-the-record sources sing Jackson’s praises and say it’s hard to believe Jackson could engage in the alleged drunken behavior, considering his duties and security clearance. The unnamed sources describe an “intoxicated,” “abusive” “frat boy.”

CNN offers a similar, slightly more detailed version of the allegations, but once again, no source is willing to be identified.

The White House medical unit frequently functioned as a “grab and go” clinic where mid-level staffers to the most senior officials could obtain prescription drugs without being examined by a doctor, casually pick up the powerful sleeping aid Ambien even for their children, and get drugs that were not prescribed to the person actually taking the medication.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this story is the degree to which Democrats are willing to paint a portrait of a dysfunctional Obama White House in order to derail one of Trump’s nominations.

Some of the allegations against Jackson are easy to believe in the context of the usual workplace quarrels — doctors disagree about treatments, someone thinks someone else got too much credit, subordinates feel like they were chewed out unfairly for minor mistakes, and so on. But some of the allegations are hard to rectify with his presidential recommendations and the praise that so many officials from both administrations have for him.

John Ashbrook’s observation is astute: “if Republican Congressional staff assembled a blind sourced list of wild charges against a Democratic nominee, nobody would cover it . . .” Or it certainly would not have been covered so credulously as the Democrats’ claims about Jackson were. As Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell put it, “Not only would it not be covered, we’d be absolutely savaged for putting out a document with criminal allegations without citation or corroboration.”

Look Out for Joy Reid’s Time-Traveling Hacker!

If you think you’re having a tough week, at least you’re not MSNBC host Joy Reid, who is being confronted with obnoxious and homophobic comments on her blog from about a decade ago.

Monday, media-news site Mediaite published—using screenshots taken from The Wayback Machine’s cached versions of Reid’s blog—more homophobic blog posts from the late aughts. In them, Reid appeared to crassly mock gay celebrities like Anderson Cooper and Clay Aiken, defend homophobia as “intrinsic” to straight people, declare that she wouldn’t see Brokeback Mountain because of the gay sex scenes, and imply that gay advocacy groups prey upon “impressionable teens.” On Thursday, the Washington Free Beacon followed up by revealing another set of homophobic posts not previously reported by Mediaite.

Reid — a Daily Beast columnist — did not apologize this time around. Instead, she released a statement saying that “In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog… to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.”

The supposed hacker was posting alongside Reid for years. According to Reichmann, that even included inserting updates in Reid’s live blog of the Alito hearing in January 2006.

Reichmann claimed that the hacker was responsible for two consecutive updates sandwiched between Reid’s legitimate ones. The updates report that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch was using his questioning time to metaphorically fellate the judge. “Oh, look, Orrin Hatch is putting on his Supreme Court knee pads to save Alito,” one line read. The post’s title, which Reichmann says the hacker changed, was “Brokeback Committee Room,” another reference to the film about gay lovers. All the contested material in the post is present in the earliest archived copy, which was captured the day after the hearing.

All of this alleged hacking apparently went unnoticed at the time by Reid.

A consensus is rapidly developing among conservative commentators that we aren’t huge fans of imposing terrible professional consequences for long-forgotten controversial or tasteless comments. (New Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen hopes this mentality is widespread.) Everyone says things they later regret. But when a public figure spins an implausible story instead of owning up to making the comments . . . that calls into question about whether they’re just too fundamentally dishonest to function in roles of responsibility.

ADDENDA: So much for my mock draft predictions! But as a Jets fan, I’m pleasantly surprised that Sam Darnold will be wearing green and white in the coming years.


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