The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

‘We Didn’t Put It in the Agreement because We Didn’t Have Time’

President Donald Trump walks off the stage after a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Some folks think I was too hard on President Trump, his comments, and the overall gist of the potential agreements at the Singapore summit. I wonder if those folks saw the comments from the president such as, “You have things that weren’t included that we got after the deal was signed. I’ve done that before in my life. And we didn’t put it in the agreement because we didn’t have time.”

Didn’t have time?

What, was there some other place these guys needed to be? Was either leader worried about missing a flight or something? Trust me, Air Force One isn’t going to take off without the president. This isn’t the SAT, and there is no proctor declaring “pencils down” when the hour is complete.

I suppose you could argue that it didn’t matter if the North Korean pledges were written down or not . . .

. . . because this regime has violated its own written pledges again and again.

North Korea signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985 and promised not to develop nuclear weapons and to allow full access to any international inspectors. They broke that pledge.

In 1992, they signed a joint declaration with South Korea committing to “denuclearization.” They broke that pledge. Later that year, they signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency agreeing to full inspections. They broke that pledge.

In 1993, the North Koreans signed an agreement with the United States that included, “assurances against the threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons.” They broke that pledge.

Then in the 1994, North Korea signed the “Agreed Framework” freezing their nuclear program . . . that they continued in secret.

In 2000, North Korea signed an agreement to “not launch long-range missiles of any kind” and “greater transparency.” They didn’t honor that one, either.

On September 19, 2005, North Korea signed the agreement at the six-party talks “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” On October 9, 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear device.

In 2007, North Korea agreed to disable its key plutonium production facilities at Yongbyon and to provide a “complete and correct” declaration of its nuclear program by the end of the year. North Korea slowed down the destruction of the Yongbyon facility, provided an incomplete accounting of its nuclear program, and refused on-site inspections, making it impossible to verify its claims.

Since then, North Korea has tested five more nuclear devices.

I keep hearing from Trump fans, “Why can’t you show a little optimism?”

Well, because optimism requires us to believe that these latest promises are completely different from all of the previous promises from this regime. The skepticism I have about this latest round of promises from North Korea is the exact same skepticism I bring to the Iran deal, which every Trump fan is thrilled to see scrapped. History teaches us that hostile regimes lie a lot. It’s not a matter of the United States not reaching out to them in the right way. If they have the opportunity to cheat, they will cheat. One might argue that duplicity is intrinsic to the nature of any regime that is unwilling to subject itself to the limit of free and fair elections. No one’s ever looked at a dictator, tyrant, despot, or ayatollah and said, “Wow, that guy’s a really honest leader.”

Trump’s fans are convinced he’s got some unique “don’t mess with him” mojo that will intimidate the North Koreans into keeping their promises. I hope they’re right. Maybe Trump has communicated that breaking a promise to his administration will indeed bring “fire and fury.” If it works out, give him the Nobel.

But I think any U.S. leader hoping to successfully negotiate a deal with the North Koreans has to keep all of this history of broken promises in the back of his mind.

Judging from Trump’s comments, he wants to approach Kim Jong-un with a clean slate: “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it. But I really have to go by today and yesterday and a couple of weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.”

Meanwhile, Down in the Palmetto State . . .

John Warren made the gubernatorial runoff in South Carolina!

Incumbent governor Henry McMaster has been involved in South Carolina politics and government for a long time, starting with staff work for Strom Thurmond in the mid 1970s. Ronald Reagan chose him to be a U.S. attorney back in 1981. He served on the state’s Commission on Higher Education in the early 1990s and was chairman of the South Carolina Republican party from 1993 to 2002. He was elected state attorney general in 2002, reelected in 2006, ran for governor in 2010, and elected lieutenant governor in 2014. No doubt most South Carolina Republicans would concur he’s gotten more things right than wrong over the course of his career, but he basically is the personification of the state’s political establishment. McMaster endorsed Trump early; Trump endorsed McMaster — in fact, some speculate that one reason Trump was eager to have Nikki Haley work in his administration was because her departure would make McMaster the governor.

The runoff is in two weeks. This is the first time a sitting governor has been forced into a runoff in South Carolina. While McMaster will no doubt enjoy the political advantages of incumbency, don’t underestimate the restlessness of South Carolina Republicans. Warren is emphasizing his status as a self-funded outsider who doesn’t owe any special interest any favors. (Sound familiar?)

In the southern coastal counties of South Carolina, Katie Arrington beat incumbent Representative Mark Sanford, 50.5 percent to 46.6 percent.

In a monumental upset fueled by a Donald Trump tweet, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford lost his Republican primary to Katie Arrington, a one-term state lawmaker who made loyalty to the president the centerpiece of her campaign.

The defeat, which carries national implications, marks the first time Sanford has lost an election, which began with his first congressional bid in this very district in 1994.

Yesterday afternoon, after Trump tweeted his endorsement of Arrington, I wrote, “Arrington probably would have preferred this endorsement more than three hours before polls close.” As much as that sounds like a shot at Trump, that’s really a shot at his staff. No doubt the president was occupied with the summit in Singapore and other presidential priorities; it’s the job of somebody on his staff to keep an eye on the primaries in the states, keep track of where the president has a rooting interest and when a presidential endorsement would be useful.

(Sanford, who Trump described as “MIA and nothing but trouble,” votes with the president 73 percent of the time.)

Reason magazine laments his departure as a figure in Congress who was “a consistently principled voice for liberty and limited government.”

Democrats will probably try to talk themselves into believing that this district is in play, but it’s worth recalling that back in May 2013, when Elizabeth Colbert Busch against Mark Sanford in his comeback bid in a special election, Democratic-leaning groups dumped about a million dollars in television advertising into this district . . . and lost by nine points.

Trump won this district 53 percent to 40 percent in 2016.

Contemplating Anthony Bourdain’s Legacy

Before we proceed, some key prefaces: Anthony Bourdain was insightful breath of fresh air, wickedly funny, and he encouraged a massive audience to nurture their curiosity and sense of wonder about the world around them. He will be dearly missed.

I agree in part and disagree in part with this Kyle Smith column about Bourdain — I think his fans were attracted by a lot more than his arm tattoos — but I’m glad someone else observed the strange contradiction in Bourdain’s beliefs. He embraced, and endorsed, a philosophy of recognizing and appreciating the wide range of not-easily-detected differences in the world of food — the “foodie culture” — but he could then turn around and roll his eyes at beer snobs, “people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes.”

There was one other aspect of Bourdain’s life that looks a little more odd and troubling in the aftermath of his suicide. On both No Reservations and Parts Unknown, at least once a season — usually with his buddy Zamir Gotta, sometimes not — Bourdain would go to some establishment and, surrounded by friends and laughter, get drunk.

Not slightly tipsy drunk, but falling-down drunk, on camera, in Romania, Sicily, and a few other episodes. This didn’t happen every episode, but it clearly was more than a one-time excess. One wonders if that was a sign that he was struggling with problems that were otherwise hidden by his largely jovial, sarcastic personality.

ADDENDA: This morning, FIFA announced the United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the 2026 World Cup. I can only imagine how many bribes this deal required. Maybe we really will be competitive in the World Corruption Games!

My co-host Greg Corombos lets Virginia Republican primary voters know what they’ve signed on for with Corey Stewart.

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