• Pragerisms

    For a more comprehensive list of Pragerisms visit
    Dennis Prager Wisdom.

    • "The left is far more interested in gaining power than in creating wealth."
    • "Without wisdom, goodness is worthless."
    • "I prefer clarity to agreement."
    • "First tell the truth, then state your opinion."
    • "Being on the Left means never having to say you're sorry."
    • "If you don't fight evil, you fight gobal warming."
    • "There are things that are so dumb, you have to learn them."
  • Liberalism’s Seven Deadly Sins

    • Sexism
    • Intolerance
    • Xenophobia
    • Racism
    • Islamophobia
    • Bigotry
    • Homophobia

    A liberal need only accuse you of one of the above in order to end all discussion and excuse himself from further elucidation of his position.

  • Glenn’s Reading List for Die-Hard Pragerites

    • Bolton, John - Surrender is not an Option
    • Bruce, Tammy - The Thought Police; The New American Revolution; The Death of Right and Wrong
    • Charen, Mona - DoGooders:How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help
    • Coulter, Ann - If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans; Slander
    • Dalrymple, Theodore - In Praise of Prejudice; Our Culture, What's Left of It
    • Doyle, William - Inside the Oval Office
    • Elder, Larry - Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card--and Lose
    • Frankl, Victor - Man's Search for Meaning
    • Flynn, Daniel - Intellectual Morons
    • Fund, John - Stealing Elections
    • Friedman, George - America's Secret War
    • Goldberg, Bernard - Bias; Arrogance
    • Goldberg, Jonah - Liberal Fascism
    • Herson, James - Tales from the Left Coast
    • Horowitz, David - Left Illusions; The Professors
    • Klein, Edward - The Truth about Hillary
    • Mnookin, Seth - Hard News: Twenty-one Brutal Months at The New York Times and How They Changed the American Media
    • Morris, Dick - Because He Could; Rewriting History
    • O'Beirne, Kate - Women Who Make the World Worse
    • Olson, Barbara - The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House
    • O'Neill, John - Unfit For Command
    • Piereson, James - Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism
    • Prager, Dennis - Think A Second Time
    • Sharansky, Natan - The Case for Democracy
    • Stein, Ben - Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do About It
    • Steyn, Mark - America Alone
    • Stephanopolous, George - All Too Human
    • Thomas, Clarence - My Grandfather's Son
    • Timmerman, Kenneth - Shadow Warriors
    • Williams, Juan - Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It
    • Wright, Lawrence - The Looming Tower

There’s No Truth to What Our DEM Fascists Tally, for FASCISTS DICTATE Their Own Contrived ‘TRUTH’

Opinion | How to Sell Your Soul to Donald Trump


There’s no way that Mike Pompeo actually venerates Donald Trump. I doubt he even likes the president much.

Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point decades ago, a feat that suggests enormous reserves of discipline, a profound respect for tradition and a talent for self-effacement when the circumstances warrant it. Trump possesses none of those qualities.

Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, steeped in the very dictums that Trump has spent a lifetime mocking with both his words and his deeds. And Pompeo has long believed in the importance of American military intervention abroad, the kind of activist role that Trump railed against during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

In fact Pompeo, who was then a congressman from Kansas, supported Marco Rubio — and publicly praised him, while disparaging Trump, just before the state’s Republican caucus in March 2016. As Susan Glasser of The New Yorker recalled in an excellent recent profile of Pompeo, he sounded an alarm that Trump would be “an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution.” He urged Republicans to come to their senses and resist the lure of the surging Trump campaign. “It’s time,” he said, “to turn down the lights on the circus.”

But the lights continued to burn bright, so Pompeo just put on a clown suit, put away his ethics and finagled a big role under the Big Top.

He had plenty of company in that transformation. It’s the wonder of the Trump era and one of the saddest, scariest themes of the impeachment inquiry so far: the teeming crowd of sellouts and suck-ups who eagerly traded principle for position and are in some cases doubling and tripling down on that transaction, to a point where it’s fair to ask if there was ever much principle to begin with.

[Get a more personal take on politics, newsmakers and more with Frank Bruni’s exclusive commentary every week. Sign up for his newsletter.]

I’m looking at you, Lindsey Graham, who somehow decided that Trump was the new John McCain, which is like deeming tripe the new tenderloin. Hell, I’m looking at most of the Republicans in the Senate. I’m not so much looking at Attorney General William Barr, odious as his behavior has been, because it’s clear in retrospect that he never made much of a pretense of rectitude, at least not in the context of Trump. He also wasn’t on record trashing Trump, not the way Pompeo and Graham and so many others who now dutifully echo him and gaze beatifically at him were. They must have broken necks from their moral whiplash. Barr’s neck supports that big head of his just fine.

Pompeo, who first signed on as Trump’s C.I.A. director and then flattered his way to secretary of state, is a paragon of these lackeys-come-lately, and he’s especially vivid proof of how easily and completely the lure of power can overwhelm any call to conscience.

He raised his hand for secretary of state after he’d seen his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, humiliated by Trump and fired by tweet. This was more than a year into Trump’s presidency, by which point the rationalizations of other supposedly serious conservatives who took top administration jobs no longer held water. It was clear that Trump wasn’t just a few artful nudges away from proper presidential bearing. He couldn’t be lifted up because he was too busy cruelly dragging everyone else down.

But Pompeo had a heady shot at a vaunted job that almost surely wasn’t going to come his way any other time. So he lunged for it, then demonstrated with his obsequiousness that doing good and doing right were never high on the agenda.

He wrote an op-ed article that essentially broke with his fellow Republicans to promote Trump’s view that Saudi Arabia’s butchery of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi shouldn’t give anyone pause. What are a few severed body parts among allies?

He recalled the ambassador to Ukraine just to please the president and his babbling Beelzebub, Rudy Giuliani. He listened mutely to that July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, decided to ignore what he heard and then claimed — until a few days ago — that he was utterly in the dark about any pressure on Ukraine to kneecap Joe Biden.

Had he spoken up or pushed back, he would have risked ending up on the outside, among the swelling Trump administration diaspora. He preferred the inside, with its glossier trappings and cushier thrones. He and his wife were diplomatic royalty, jetting around the world. He could bear the ache of a tongue full of tooth marks. Better to be a wretched part of history than no part at all.

The tale sounds familiar because it is. It’s the story of Faust, who sold his soul for renown, then endured the ugliness of that deal. It’s also the story of too many of Trump’s Republican enablers to count. Sure, many of them decided to prop and pretty him up, a man whose unfitness for the Oval Office was never really in doubt, out of tribal loyalty, a force far too potent in American politics today. But some rushed to him because that’s where the riches were, at least metaphorically. That’s where the fame was.

And they weren’t simply burying the hatchet with a politician who hadn’t been their preferred candidate or whose positions differed from theirs only slightly. They were dismantling the chain saw that they’d wielded in the face of a fraud whose conduct, along with some of his proposals, was antithetical to who they claimed to be.

Few people remember anymore, but just years before she became the dark empress of “alternative facts,” Kellyanne Conway was a respected, reasonably mainstream, uncontroversial Republican pollster and strategist. Just months before she joined Team Trump, she correctly labeled him “vulgar,” said that he wasn’t presidential, called him a liar and demanded his tax returns. Then he offered her the lofty job of managing his presidential campaign — and all the television airtime that came with it — and she turned herself into a kowtowing cartoon. She’ll never be seen the same way again. Was the ride really worth it?

And what was Mick Mulvaney thinking when he agreed to be Trump’s third chief of staff, having witnessed the tortures of chiefs Nos. 1 and 2? Before Trump was elected, Mulvaney called him and Hillary Clinton “two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country,” and lest you think Trump was merely collateral damage in her disparagement, Mulvaney separately called Trump “a terrible human being.” Now he calls him boss. Amazing how revulsion crumbles when relevance is in the equation.

Graham was oddly and briefly honest about this in an interview with The Times’s Mark Leibovich, framing his kinship with Trump, whom he once called “the world’s biggest jackass,” as part of his career-long quest “to try to be relevant.” This quest now involves the insistence that Trump, rather than abusing the presidency to dig up imagined dirt on a political rival, is the victim of some setup.

You can hear Graham’s version as predictably loopy illogic from a senator up for re-election next year in the deep-red state of South Carolina, but it’s more than that. It’s the fee for being able to get the president on the phone, for being invited to play golf with him, for feeling the rush of access, for getting to crow about your perch at the epicenter of the action. He and Pompeo will have insider anecdotes to last the rest of their lives. They’ll need just as long to convince themselves that they didn’t overpay.



Trump Haters Attack the President for Not Assaulting Kim Jong-un for the Warmbier Death

Trump Clarifies: Of Course I Hold North Korea Responsible For Otto Warmbier’s Death

by  Allahpundit  at  HotAir:

He’s not being misinterpreted. No one accused him of refusing to blame “North Korea” for Warmbier’s death. Of course the NorKs are responsible. Warmbier was in their custody. Even Kim doesn’t dispute that North Korea bears responsibility. The claim is whether Kim personally bore blame. Nope, said Trump in Hanoi. Kim told him he didn’t know about it and he takes him at his word.

Watch the clip here of Republican Chris Stewart, which contains the Trump footage, making the very obvious point that in an Orwellian state like North Korea naturally Big Brother would know what’s happening with Warmbier. Particularly since he was a citizen of North Korea’s archenemy, the United States, and as such his treatment might carry dire diplomatic or military consequences.

Look at the delicacy with which the fate of the downed Indian pilot who was captured by Pakistan was handled by both sides. Hostage crises are powderkegs. It’s ridiculous to imagine Kim’s goons taking it upon themselves to decide how to handle a young American prisoner without input from the supreme leader. And everyone understands this. So again, is Trump gaslighting us or himself?

You would think that running interference for Kim on Warmbier would be enough of a concession to preserve the detente between the U.S. and North Korea, but no, apparently a little more weakness is required:

The U.S. military is preparing to announce that annual large-scale joint exercises conducted with South Korea every spring will no longer be held, according to two U.S. defense officials.

The major U.S.-South Korea exercises are being curtailed as part of the Trump administration’s effort to ease tensions with North Korea, the officials said. The exercises — known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — will be replaced with smaller, mission-specific training, according to the officials.

Various excuses are being offered for this, like the idea that the same readiness can be achieved on a smaller scale (contra decades of military claims), and it’s supposedly not linked to the summit. But that’s impossible to believe. The timing ensures that it will appear as a concession to Kim — a unilateral one too, since nothing was obtained in return. If Trump wanted to avoid that perception he’d hold off on scaling back the exercises for awhile.

The best explanation for his bizarre apologetics for Kim over Warmbier’s death is that a charm offensive has always been his core plan for getting North Korea to denuclearize. Experts were knocking him on Wednesday for having let sanctions relief derail the summit when that’s the sort of issue that normally would have been worked out by the two sides in advance, as a precondition for a face-to-face meeting between the heads of state. Either the White House couldn’t manage that or, more likely, Trump thought it was a minor detail that could be overlooked temporarily in the expectation that he’d charm Kim when they met and the issue could be resolved between them. For fark’s sake, he apparently tried to flatter the Big Brother of North Korea by telling him that he had known plenty of guys from prominent families growing up and many had emerged messed up, but not Kim — as if some cokehead trust-fund baby from Manhattan compares unfavorably to a nut known to execute his enemies by having artillery fired at them. Viewed in that context, of course he ended up covering for Kim on his Warmbier lie. His one and only strategy has been to ingratiate himself to this wackjob and hope that their new friendship will lead Kim to voluntarily disgorge North Korea’s greatest strategic asset. He’s all-in on the charm offensive, even if that means helping to cover up Kim’s culpability in North Korean crimes.



Kim Jong-un Not Ready Yet


by Scott Johnson   at PowerLine:

President Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un — this one in Hanoi — has concluded with no agreement. I have embedded Trump’s 37-minute press conference with Secretary Pompeo in its entirety below (thank you, MSNBC). It is worth a close look. Kim wanted sanctions lifted in their entirety in exchange for too much of nothing (the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex). It had always worked for Kim in the past. Why not this time?

Nicholas Eberstadt had warned against a bad deal here in the New York Times. However, Trump did the right thing; he walked. “It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. Pompeo expressed optimism that they would ultimately reach a deal, as did Trump. They are now headed back to the United States.

The Wall Street Journal story by Vivian Salama and Jonathan Cheng has just been posted here (accessible here via Outline). My daughter Eliana’s interesting Politico story has just been posted here.





Kim Jong-un Wanted Sanctions Lifted


by Scott Johnson  at PowerLine:

President Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un — this one in Hanoi — has concluded with no agreement. I have embedded Trump’s 37-minute press conference with Secretary Pompeo in its entirety below (thank you, MSNBC). It is worth a close look. Kim wanted sanctions lifted in their entirety in exchange for too much of nothing (the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex). It had always worked for Kim in the past. Why not this time?

Nicholas Eberstadt had warned against a bad deal here in the New York Times. However, Trump did the right thing; he walked. “It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. Pompeo expressed optimism that they would ultimately reach a deal, as did Trump. They are now headed back to the United States.

The Wall Street Journal story by Vivian Salama and Jonathan Cheng has just been posted here (accessible here via Outline). My daughter Eliana’s interesting Politico story has just been posted here.



Fascistic Leftist State BBC on Trump-Kim Jong-un Meeting in Hanoi

Donald Trump in Vietnam for summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un


Related Topics

Mr Trump landed in Hanoi hours after Mr Kim arrived by car

US President Donald Trump has arrived in Vietnam ahead of his second summit with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Air Force One landed at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport hours after Mr Kim reached the Vietnamese capital by train and car.

The summit, which is due to take place on Wednesday and Thursday, follows a historic first round of talks in Singapore last year.

The two leaders are expected to discuss progress towards ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Ceremonial guards had lined a red carpet laid out for Mr Kim as he arrived at Dong Dang border station on Tuesday morning. He was then driven to Hanoi, where heavy security and flag-waving crowds were waiting for him.

Mr Kim arrived by train at the border station of Dong Dang

Mr Kim is thought to be travelling with his sister Kim Yo-jong and one of his key negotiators, former General Kim Yong-chol, both familiar faces from the previous summit with Mr Trump.

Why did Mr Kim take a train to Vietnam?

The journey from Pyongyang to Vietnam took more than two days and traversed about 4,000 km (2,485 miles). Had Mr Kim chosen to fly to Vietnam he would have got there in a matter of hours.

As Mr Kim’s train passed through China, roads were closed and train stations shut down. Chinese social media was abuzz with road closures, traffic congestion and delayed trains.

Kim Jong-un boards his train

Vietnam’s Dong Dang station was also closed to the public ahead of his arrival on Tuesday morning. He is now being driven around 170km (105mi) to Hanoi by car.

It’s little surprise that Mr Kim chose to take the train as this is how his grandfather, North Korea’s first leader Kim ll-sung, travelled when he went to Vietnam and Eastern Europe.

That alone would have made it a highly symbolic move for the younger Mr Kim.

Mr Kim’s private green and yellow train has 21 bulletproof carriages and is luxurious, with plush pink leather sofas and conference rooms so the journey would not have been uncomfortable.

What will Trump and Kim do in Vietnam?

Unlike the North Korean leader, Mr Trump travelled to Hanoi by plane. The presidential airliner Air Force One left Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, landing in the Vietnamese capital on Tuesday night local time.

Details of their schedule are only just becoming clear. Mr Trump will meet Mr Kim for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening and then they will have dinner together with their advisers, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. On Thursday, the leaders will meet for a series of back-and-forth meetings.

Why are they meeting again?

The Hanoi meeting is expected to build on the groundwork of what was achieved at the Singapore summit last June.

That meeting produced a vaguely worded agreement, with both leaders agreeing to work towards denuclearisation – though it was never made clear what this would entail.

Mr Kim and Mr Trump in SingaporeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Nothing concrete was produced as a result of the first Singapore summit

However, little diplomatic progress was made following the summit.

This time round, both leaders will be very conscious that expectations will be high for an outcome that demonstrates tangible signs of progress.

However, Mr Trump appeared to be managing expectations ahead of the summit, saying he was in “no rush” to press for North Korea’s denuclearisation.

“I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy,” he said.

Washington had previously said that North Korea had to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons before there could be any sanctions relief.

Why Vietnam?

It’s an ideal location for many reasons. It has diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea, despite once having been enemies with the US – and could be used by the US as an example of two countries working together and setting aside their past grievances.

HanoiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Hanoi is all geared up for the upcoming summit

Ideologically, both Vietnam and North Korea are communist countries – though Vietnam has rapidly developed since and become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, all while the party there retains absolute power.



North Korea Eases its Angst Against America

North Korea’s Official Media Drop Their Hostility Toward Trump And The US

North Korean propaganda, chronically showing heroic North Koreans crushing imperialist powers like the United States, has taken a dramatic turn toward moderation in recent weeks.

Driven by the Kim Jung-un regime’s open meetings with Presidents Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in of South Korea, the ubiquitous posters festooning public squares, shops and elsewhere now deal with economic progress and hailing improved relations with South Korea. Party newspapers show similar shifts.

 In a country where access to information is severely controlled, such unannounced shifts are closely watched as reflections of altered official policies. The Communist press has even been reporting the Dear Leader’s foreign trips to Beijing and Singapore in near real-time.

Reduced anti-American hostility might also be part of an ongoing effort to convince President Trump to ease the stringent international economic sanctions he has assembled on the North. The American leader has vowed not to let up until well into the nuclear disarmament process.

However, the hopeful signs of reduced official hostility come at the same time as other developments indicating possible hedging by the Kim state toward its proclaimed goal of “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, whatever that ends up meaning. Using satellite photos, intelligence analysts say Pyongyang continues a large expansion of a solid-fuel ballistic missile engine factory, as we wrote here the other day.

“In tone, the US is now depicted as if it is a normal country,” North Korea expert Peter Ward told the BBC. “All references to US actions that North Korea considers hostile acts have disappeared from the papers.” They’ve been replaced by what might be considered neutral coverage, even when the US recently quit the UN Human Rights Council.

“This is fascinating,” Ward continued. “Generally speaking, neutral or positive coverage is normally reserved for countries that Pyongyang has friendly relations with.”

Of course, the new line is also propaganda. And it can be changed back to aggressive hostility just as quickly. But it’s an interesting indication of Pyongyang’s more open attitude toward the West. And it comes after yet another post-summit pilgrimmage by Kim to Beijing.

Secy. of State Mike Pompeo is in Pyongyang again this week to continue negotiations started in Singapore. He may notice the propaganda changes and even disappearance of anti-American souvenirs on sale widely.

Fyodor Tertitskiy of NK News that closely monitors the North said: “Pyongyang needs an atmosphere of peace and detente and such posters would help to create it.”


Pompeo Meets the Press in Singapore


Secretary Pompeo gave a press briefing on the status of negotiations with North Korea early this morning (our time). The video is below. His remarks anticipated the summit meeting tomorrow.

Pompeo devoted his prepared remarks (about five minutes) almost entirely to disputing a New York Times report that the United States lacks the technical expertise to verify North Korean denuclearization. I may be mistaken about this, but I think he’s referring to “The nine steps required to really disarm North Korea,” by William Broad, David Sanger and Troy Griggs in today’s paper.

Pompeo’s remarks alluded to negotiations preceding the summit tomorrow. They leave the possibility of failure open, but they seem to preface an agreement representing “a real success here.” As he says, “I’m optimistic that we will have a successful outcome” or words to that effect. He emphasizes verifiable denuclearization: “That’s what’s been missed before.”

Who Is Kim Jong-un?

Tracking the man behind the myth of Kim Jong-un

He is one of the world’s most instantly recognizable figures, but frustratingly little is known about the North Korean leader


Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the hugely anticipated summit between the US president and the North Korean leader will be the close-up glimpses the world will be offered of one of the most iconic, but opaque leaders on the global stage.

His appearance and style may make him a figure of ridicule, but the fact that Kim Jong-un is meeting with the world’s most powerful man makes clear that he heads one of the most dangerous states on earth.

Observing Kim’s every move in Singapore with a particularly keen eye will be Sebastian Falletti, author of the just-published La Piste Kim: Voyage au coeur de la Coree du Nord (On the trail of Kim: A voyage into the heart of North Korea).

Falletti states convincingly that Kim is not a madman, but a smart and rational player who has charm and charisma. His ruthlessness, while enabled by the dictatorship that North Korea is, may be psychologically driven by early traumas and betrayals, and his health may be fragile.

Kim has brilliantly broken out of last year’s international isolation, and shares similar formative experiences and a mutual fascination with United States President Donald Trump – which suggests that something unprecedented – a personal relationship between US and North Korean leaders – could be on the cards.

The mysterious Kim the Third

For a decade, Falletti, Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, has been sifting through Kim-related rumor, hearsay and fact in locations spanning the China-North Korea border, Guam, Osaka, Pyongyang, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai and Washington, interviewing everyone from defectors, wonks, intelligence agents and officials. With North Korea being Asia’s biggest news story, Kim “hijacked my existence” the author said.

The first mystery was who would succeed Kim Jong-il, who suffered a stroke in 2008 (he would die in 2011). Seoul, where Falletti landed in 2009, was simmering with rumor and speculation. “Everyone was looking for pictures,” he recalled. “We were all in the dark.”

In 2010, he visited Pyongyang with fellow reporters one week before a major party meeting, where a new leader was expected to be revealed. “Everyone expected that he would be revealed, we all harassed our minders about this, and they were paranoid and stressed,” Falletti said. “It was totally sealed off.”

Then, in the bar of his Pyongyang hotel, he got talking with one guide, a student. “As my editor said, ‘In this job, luck is a professional skill,’” Falletti said. “So,  I tried my luck!” He asked her, “Does Kim Jong-il have a son?” He was flabbergasted at her response: She replied that he did, that he was a young general, that her college had been teaching about him – there was even a song about him.

“That really spooked me,” Falletti recalled. “The entire world and the CIA were guessing about it, and this student told me that everyone in Pyongyang is learning about him! This showed me how the system was capable of keeping a critical secret.”

One week later, Kim’s name appeared in state media.

Falletti’s informant terminated the interview by laughing and telling him that what she had said was just a joke. The incident gave Falletti sympathy – and admiration – for North Koreans.

“We look at [North Koreans] as robots but my experience is that, yes, they are brainwashed and are in a system, but they maintain some form of individuality,” he said. “They are not stupid or lack individual critical thinking, but for us, in free societies, if we make a mistake we may be in trouble for a while. There, you make one mistake, you can pay a huge price. So, they are constantly doing these mental gymnastics.”

Childhood betrayal, survival, ruthlessness

Some media characterize Kim as a lunatic, but Falletti sniffs at this analysis, based on Western-centric perceptions. “First, there is his appearance: He is overweight, so is an unsettling figure for Western audiences where hipsters are obsessed with slim silhouettes,” the author said. “He sounds like a spoiled brat, and he has challenged the US, and done more ballistic missile and nuclear tests than his father, so he sounds reckless.”

In actual fact, Pyongyang’s elite is coolly rational. “They are super-realistic people, it is a super-realistic political system,” Falletti said of Kim and his close circle. “When it comes to international relations, they are very rational, as their lives are at stake … [for them] the Gadaffi case is not theoretical.”

This overriding priority sharply focuses political thinking. “The North Korean leadership has an easier task than [other global leaders], as they don’t have conflicting priorities,” Falletti said. “Their main focus is on how to not get crushed by big powers, how to survive. And they have been very successful.”

Assuming power so young in a culture where age matters, and with so little experience in a dangerous regime, many pundits expected him to struggle to establish himself, or even to become a puppet. They were wrong. “He has been able to impose seemingly total control on the top leadership and get rid of potential competitors,” Falletti said.

He reckons Kim was far better prepared for leadership than pundits give him credit for. Kim is known as “The Marshal” to his people and is believed to have undertaken security service and army training – the latter at the country’s military academy.

Yet Kim is incessantly demanding US security guarantees. This could stem from deep personal insecurities, Falletti believes. Kim trusts very few people, notably his older brother Jong-chol and younger sister, Yo-jong. From very early on, the three faced an uncertain future: they were born not of their father’s wife, but of his mistress, dancer Ko Yong-hui. All three were educated in exclusive Swiss schools – but this was no “golden exile,” Falletti said.

In the 1990s, dire reports from North Korea painted pictures of a murderous famine and portrayed their father as a dictator. Predictions of collapse were rife. Then their guardians in Switzerland – their uncle and aunt from Ko’s side – defected to the US in 1998. Their mother died of cancer in 2004. This combination of circumstances bred a sense of vulnerability.

“The aunt who raised you defected to the enemy, so even though he was a spoiled kid, a prince, he experienced treason – it’s like reading Machiavelli!” Falletti said. “Psychologically, it was a tense teenagehood. These traumas bonded the siblings.”

Once Kim became the third generation of his family to take power, more betrayals followed: from long-term regime insider Jang and half-brother Jong-nam.

Jang was executed, apparently for attempting to build his own economic empire (possibly with Beijing’s support). Jong-nam was assassinated in Malaysia (possibly due to alleged plans to defect to South Korea; possibly due to his contacts with the United States).

Kim instituted what has been dubbed a “reign of terror.” “The level of purges in [his] first few years was high – unprecedented since the 1950s,” said Falletti. “Kim wanted to show he was the boss. He made a lot of high officials afraid.”

Kim’s removal of Jang was particularly theatrical: He was arrested in a politburo meeting. “You are showing everyone who is the boss: This is like a cabinet meeting and suddenly the police break in and take you out,” Falletti said.

Now, Kim has taken full control. “It could have worked out with Jang, he could have had a more collective, collegial leadership,” said Falletti. “But he wants to concentrate all power.”

Other family confidantes are Kim’s almost entirely unknown elder half-sister, Seol-song, believed to be a key behind-the-scenes player, and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, a former dancer believed to be a savvy investor, who Kim married at his father’s suggestion.

The chubby charmer

Still, Kim has a brighter side. Unlike his hermit-like father, who only ever spoke in public once, he has cultivated a beaming public persona.  “His father was extremely smart but liked to be in a closed circle; he hid from the masses, wore shades, was mysterious,” Falletti said. “Kim seems much more open, more relaxed physically, embracing people.”

Those who have met him say that Kim (like many dictators) oozes personal charm: he is chummy, humorous, sarcastic and enjoys eating and drinking. South Koreans were bowled over by his charisma and turn of phrase during his April summit with President Moon Jae-in. “I would say he is strong-willed, self-confident, ambitious and maybe capricious,” Falletti summed up.

Youthfulness – Kim is believed to be 34 – enables long-term vision. “Different to leaders in democratic countries, he can project himself long-term,” Falletti explained. His vision so far has been centered around byungjin, a policy line that combines nuclear weapons ownership with economic development. However, questions hang over his personal sustainability.

Family genes are sub-par: His grandfather suffered from a hideous tumor; his father was diabetic. Kim first gained weight in order to emulate the look of his revered grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and may have engaged in bodybuilding to bulk up and look more imposing, Falletti said. But stockiness turned to obesity around the time of the execution of Jang. That was possibly due to stress, Falletti surmised; possibly due to lack of time to lift weights.

He is a heavy smoker. Journalists covering the April inter-Korean summit noted how out of breath Kim looked after ascending a ten-step flight of stairs. “[Kim’s health] raises a huge question mark for the future of the regime,” Falletti mused. “Who would replace him?”

Playing China, playing America; and the Trump-Kim connection

Having consolidated his leadership and largely completed his strategic arms programs, Falletti believes Kim is now moving to “stage two” of his reign: Stabilizing the Pyongyang’s international relations. And he is doing it very, very well, Falletti reckons.

“He played Xi and Trump – this is the playbook of his grandfather, who played Mao against Stalin: He got the invitation to meet Xi thanks to the invitation to meet Trump, and now he knows that if he does not get a deal with Trump, Xi has his back” Falletti said. “He was in a corner six month ago, totally isolated; now he has managed to get tete-a-tetes with the two most powerful leaders in the world. That is already an achievement.”

Falletti also pointed out that Kim and Trump share commonalities that extend far beyond their alpha-male personas and last year’s back-and-forth of braggadocio and insult.

The world knows the emotive nature of Koreans from South Korean TV dramas and films, and North Koreans – a people who many journalists and NGO workers find delightful in their naivety, sincerity and curiosity – share this trait.

“One source told me, ‘North Korean people need love,’ and he was talking about emotive life; they need attention, they are Korean,” Falletti said. “A lot of this is emotion and respect; if you give them attention, they give you more than you thought.”

For this reason, Falletti thinks that the precedent-busting Trump – whose personal interest in North Korea long predates his election – has a better chance of striking a deal with Kim than his conventional presidential predecessors.

“He is genuinely interested in Kim, because of their similar family backgrounds: Both are the second son of an empire, a dynasty, and were not supposed to be the successor. Trump has an elder brother, but he showed his father he had balls, he had determination. Kim is the same: He showed, through his temper, that he was the man.” (Kim’s elder brother is believed to be an artistic, genteel character – hence their father’s decision to place the tougher Jong-un on the throne.)

“One is a business dynasty and the other is a political dynasty, and they are both tough places: New York for real estate; Pyongyang for politics,” Falletti continued. “Even before he was elected, Trump had genuine respect, and from the North Korean perspective, that is a huge difference: ‘The US president has a real interest in me.’”

The possibility of a bromance between a North Korean leader and a US president is a radical new factor in the equation, Falletti believes. Trump is a deal maker who would “enjoy a potential lunch or dinner with Kim, that is his way of doing business and building relationships” Falletti said. “This is very Asian, very Confucian – personal relations.”

A relationship with Washington is critical for Pyongyang’s long-term future, the author added, for Kim must balance the powers surrounding him. “China is big, North Korea is small, and if they follow the Chinese model, China will submerge them,” Falletti said. “This is where you see the strategic vision: if they want to keep their identity, they cannot open the gate totally, especially to China, they will be a drop in the ocean.”

This may explain why Kim has (so far) not made North Korea’s customary demands for a withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. “It is the interests of North Korea to keep some US presence,” Falletti said. “But in the propaganda, they will never say it.”

Yet, at the end of his investigative odyssey, Falletti admits that much about North Korea and its charismatic but cruel leader remains mysterious. “Today, in this connected globalized world there is a place where we have to say – and not be ashamed to say – ‘we don’t know.’ This is what makes North Korea exciting to cover: It is the last big story!”



Victor David Hanson on Dealing With Iran, North Korea

U.S. Has Leverage in Dealings With Iran, North Korea

by Victor Davis Hanson    at realclearpolitics:



Trump-North Korea Summit Postponed!

Trump On The Summit: This Is A Tremendous Setback For North Korea And The World

by Allahpundit  at Hot Air:

It’s a cliche but it’s true that no deal is better than a bad deal. Credit to POTUS for being willing to acknowledge that and walk, especially given how palpably badly he wanted it to happen. Although maybe this is a lesson to pause for five minutes and consult with your natsec and diplomatic teams the next time a lunatic floats an invite to meet him for talks. Trump lunged at the summit opportunity for good reasons and bad, because he knew that the spiral of bellicosity between us and them was headed in a bad direction and because he wanted to pull off something none of his predecessors did (although they could have if they’d wanted to). He won’t lose face by bailing now — Kim’s bellicosity lately gave him a good excuse to cancel and being the one to walk away from the table is a power move, especially with Kim having just torn down his nuke testing site. But now there’s a risk that the spiral of bellicosity will spiral further when, perhaps, a more cautious approach to a summit with baby-step “confidence-building measures” might have kept things on track.

Rich Lowry made the case this morning, hours before Trump pulled the plug, that it was time to pull the plug:

Trump deserves credit for tightening a sanctions regime with considerable slack in it and intimidating Kim with his battery of insults and bombast. But the president was pushing on an open door: If history is any guide, the North wanted to use its bout of missile tests to get back to the negotiating table, and so it has…

Their threat to pull out of the summit was clearly meant to exploit Trump’s eagerness for the meeting, demonstrated by his premature boastfulness. And they’ve had early success in starting a negotiation over a negotiation that pushed Trump to, at least momentarily, soften the core U.S. demand of swift denuclearization.

The president has attempted to prove that he doesn’t want the meeting more than Kim by saying that the summit isn’t guaranteed, but calling it off would render what was supposed to be a prospective signature foreign policy triumph a complete fizzle.

Yeah, the early trendlines here weren’t good. When North Korea complained about joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, the White House canceled them. Then Mike Pompeo started hedging on denuclearization, suggesting that the North could keep their nukes so long as they didn’t have nuclear ICBMs. The slope of concessions was already getting slippery. Time to step off. Hopefully Kim fumes for a day or two and then comes back to the table instead of, ah, nuking South Korea.

Speaking of which, when exactly did Trump give a heads up to the South’s leadership that the summit was off?