My sincerest sympathy to the American Democrats

opinion June 20, 2018 01:00

By Tulsathit Taptim
The Nation

I have been mocking Donald Trump since he was the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, and his “historic” summit with Kim Jong-un  has done little to change my contemptuous stand. But while my  attitude toward the US leader hasn’t changed much, my sympathy towards his local opponents, the Democrats in particular, has grown remarkably.

One day before Trump won the US election, his rival Hillary Clinton practically called him the most dangerous man ever to enter the race. 

Her party continued to call him a “spy” of Russia after his victory and its virtual depiction of him as a “traitor” is still  ringing in the ears of Americans, whether they like or hate him.

To be honest, “increased” prospects for peace in the aftermath of the summit in Singapore don’t interest me that much. After all, that prospects for peace have brightened for the planet inhabited by billions following the meeting of two men with funny hair means that  something is definitely and seriously wrong with our world. It’s what the Democrats will do next that keeps me intrigued.

Democrat strategists must be scratching their heads. Trump and Kim were acting like they were long-lost brothers just a few months after the former taunted the latter’s “smaller” guns and sparked fears of a nuclear war in the process. Here’s what Trump tweeted in January: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

It’s all water under the bridge now, I suppose. From someone who could trigger a world war with one tweet, Trump has been cheekily tipped for a Nobel Peace Prize. He won’t get it, but that’s not the point. The man has done what Barack Obama and Bill Clinton wouldn’t even dream about, let alone actually do.

As for Hillary Clinton, where do I begin? When serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration, she oversaw a hands-off approach to North Korea. One cynical nuclear non-proliferation expert simplified that policy as “a polite term for sitting back and watching while North Korea continued to build up its nuclear weapons programme”.

The same expert, though, said that given Pyongyang’s seclusion, secretiveness and stubbornness, the Obama government “felt it did not have a lot of other plausible options”.

After Trump called the man he shook hands with the other day – the one who leads a secretive, stubborn and belligerent regime – a “Rocket Man”, you would presume he had even fewer options. But the American president has proven everyone wrong.

It can be that either the Democrats did not bother to try reaching out to Kim Jong-un or that the North Korean leader liked Trump’s cowboy style better. Diplomatic language can sound very insincere or pretentious, and Trump apparently didn’t like it or know how to speak it.


There’s also the slight possibility that Kim bought Trump’s “bigger gun” claims, and the historic handshake was shrewd diplomacy on Pyongyang’s part. This theory, though, did not help the Democrats, who never thought of boasting about America’s nuclear power and scaring North Korea into smiling more in the process.

All these have left the Democrats with no choice but to discredit the Singapore summit. It is a tricky strategy, but calling it a success is tantamount to praising the opponents and beating themselves up.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Democrats have come out to criticise Trump for making major concessions to North Korea without receiving anything concrete in return. Mark Warner, top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said it was “clear that Kim Jong-un walked away from Singapore with exactly what he wanted – the pomp, circumstance and prestige of a meeting with the President of the United States – while making no specific commitments in return”.

The Democrat strategy runs the risk of being deemed a sour grape reaction. The party will be asked what they actually think of Trump. Do they think he’s a loose cannon who prefer to shoot his mouth off and create global tension in the process, or a “Santa Claus” figure who showers a reputed regime with gifts it does not deserve? Granted, Trump has confused everyone with his style, but the Democrats accusing him of being too generous (and making the world’s most feared man smile like a boy for a change) would enormously add to the confusion.

Good news for the Democrats is that it’s still early. There is plenty of time for things to go economically or diplomatically wrong for Trump, especially if he is to run for a second term – which he will, no matter what that will do to democracy as we know it. But until the next presidential race, Democrat strategists will have to work overtime, with the two men who met in Singapore probably laughing their heads off.