The Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un had drama, imagery, pomp and circumstance, even a Hollywood-style promotional video. There were promises of denuclearization and hopes for a new relationship between the United States and North Korea. What was missing, however, were the specific details and concrete actions necessary to achieve such lofty goals. That work began at a less remarked on, but perhaps more important, meeting in Beijing two days later. Between Mike Pompeo and Xi Jinping.
“This will not be just a photo op,” President Trump said Thursday of his meeting next week with Kim Jong Un. “This will be—at a minimum, we’ll start with, perhaps, a good relationship. And that’s something that’s very important toward the ultimate making of a good deal.” Later that day the president added that he might, if things go well, invite Kim to visit him in the United States, perhaps even at the White House. “He has also discussed [possibly] golfing with Kim,” a “senior Trump administration official” told the Daily Beast.
Maybe you can help me out. I’m puzzling over a line in a New York Times story on The World As It Is, the forthcoming memoir from Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The article, by Peter Baker, is about the parts of Rhodes’s book that deal with Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.
“In the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election,” Baker reports, “Mr. Obama went through multiple emotional stages,” including flashes of “anger,” “rare self-doubt,” and taking “the long view.” Do not think, however, that during the final weeks of his presidency Barack Obama was withdrawn or more self-obsessed than usual. People needed him. The day after the election, Baker continues, “Mr. Obama focused on cheering up his despondent staff.”
In 1965 Tom Wolfe visited Princeton University for a panel discussion of “the style of the Sixties.” The author of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, published that year, was scheduled to appear alongside Günter Grass, Allen Ginsberg, and Paul Krassner. Grass spoke first. The German novelist’s remarks, Wolfe wrote later, “were grave and passionate. They were about the responsibility of the artist in a time of struggle and crisis.” And they were crudely dismissed by Krassner. “The next thing I knew,” Wolfe wrote, “the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America.”
On May 15, 1939, philosopher John Dewey issued a statement to the press announcing the formation of the Committee for Cultural Freedom. Attached were the committee’s declaration of principles and the names of 96 signatories. The following day, at a meeting inside Columbia University’s Low Library, the committee adopted its official manifesto. “Never before in modern times,” the document began, “has the integrity of the writer, the artists, the scientist, and the scholar been threatened so seriously.”
I was anxious about Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing. Here was a woman who has spent her life purposefully in the shadows, brought before a committee whose members bask in the spotlight. Here was a career intelligence officer, a keeper of secrets and agent of dissimulation, whose professional future depends, at least in part, on her ability to speak directly and persuasively in a public forum. And close to the entirety of her life remains classified, making her job all the more difficult.
Ever since April 30, when the New York Times published a list of topics that special counsel Robert Mueller would like to ask President Trump about, cable news and the political press have focused exclusively on the two major legal matters in which the president is entangled.
First, of course, is Mueller’s open-ended probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Second is the Southern District of New York’s investigation into Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s business dealings, including with Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels.
What on earth are the Democrats doing? President Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo, eminently qualified by any reasonable standard, to be America’s seventieth secretary of State. And yet the Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, have perverted the advice and consent clause of the Constitution into a license to obstruct this solid nominee for one of the most important cabinet offices. The Democratic rationales for opposition are neither consistent nor compelling. But the party is heedlessly and recklessly trying to capsize the nomination anyway, without giving second thought to the potential consequences of its actions. If this doesn’t count as a symptom of Trump derangement syndrome, I don’t know what does.