I got lots of pushback on my North Korea article, mostly from my conservative “Never Trump” friends. Key disagreements were as follows:
- Why did you reference Iran?
The main reason was that North Korea by itself is an annoyance but not a real strategic threat, since it could be eliminated way before it could make use of nukes, and Kim Jong-un knows it. North Korea may be an unstable, unpredictable regime, but it is not a credible military threat. Not so with Iran if the North Koreans sold it their nuke technology. It’s the potential proliferation to potential real strategic threats that really matter.
- Having the first meeting between the top decision-makers is risky because if the talks fail, there is nowhere else to go but war or capitulation. Why not have preliminary talks with lower-level folks and work your way up?
That cuts both ways. Kim recognizes the stakes as well, and that may be the factor that focuses the mind. Maybe it’s Kim who is afraid of failure, so Donald Trump’s negotiating leverage is enhanced, primarily because his military threat is considered real. Plus, building up from lower-level talks would play into Kim’s hands by giving North Korea time to perfect its nuke program under legitimate auspices.
- It’s absurd to think that proper preparation can be completed in a month, so the risk of the talks going off the rails is very high. Why not wait a few months and get it right?
If the agenda is kept to the full dismantling and total verification of North Korea’s nuke program in return for security and goodie guarantees, why is more time needed? Kim either agrees and engages in those discussions or we walk out. But at least the world will know where things really stand.
- The U.S. diplomatic team is in shambles, and confirmation of the new players is at least months away. Don’t we need a full team?
No. Discussions on the meeting preparations were apparently being handled by the CIA, not the State Department, so Mike Pompeo is already a key player. And if by shambles it’s meant that Rex Tillerson is gone, so what? The issues are very straightforward and more of a one-on-one negotiation. Scores of diplomats are just baggage.
We report, you decide.
Trump announced that he called Russian president Vladimir Putin. He congratulated him on his re-election victory and indicated that they might get together soon for a chat. The Left and many establishment GOPers went ballistic; how dare Trump as the leader of the free world acknowledge what was obviously a rigged election. Then we find that there was a National Security Council memo that included in capital letters the warning, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE PUTIN.” Supposedly, this was leaked to the media by someone on the council, and Trump is livid. As is always the case with Trump and his relationship with the media and his critics, there could be two sides to this.
First, Trump had no obligation to mention that he had even spoken to Putin, much less reveal that he congratulated him. It’s entirely possible that Trump truly believes that he has bigger fish to fry with Putin and that a bit of sugar combined with real actions — like arming Ukraine, sanctioning oligarchs, and squeezing Russia’s energy industry by giving Europe a U.S. alternative — will work better in getting what we want than harsh rhetoric. And maybe he disclosed the congrats simply to get under the skin of his critics. Ditto for the “leak,” which could be a head fake. I wouldn’t put it past Trump to be in on the leak to reinforce the idea that he is his own man and will not be dictated to by staffers who value rhetoric over substance.
It may seem odd for someone whose day job is to invest in private early stage growth companies, many of which are technology based, to be a tech novice, but I often don’t understand much of what goes on behind the tech curtain, particularly social media. Take the latest data mining punch-up with Facebook. As I understand it, the lay of the land is as follows: A data analytics firm that had done work for the Trump campaign obtained access to Facebook account information on several hundred thousand consumers and then used those accounts’ connections to access data on millions more. It’s unclear if permission had been granted by the initial group, or if Facebook was complicit, but it seems in any event that the expanded access was not authorized. Furthermore, it may be that those who granted initial access were misled into believing that their data was being accessed for academic-only purposes either by Facebook, the data company, or both.
Having said that (which still leaves many questions unanswered), the data analytics firm denies that any of this info was used in its work for the Trump campaign. Now, of course, it could be lying, but that’s what is in the public domain to date. The Left and the media went ballistic (lots of that going around), claiming that the Trump campaign illegally stole data on millions of Americans, used it without their permission, and this was the main reason why Trump won — dirty pool of the highest order and further evidence that Trump’s victory is illegitimate.
I really don’t understand how politicians think, and I have a hard time understanding their motives, other than whatever they do serves some political purpose that is often unintelligible to me. They don’t comprehend the meaning of irony or hypocrisy. Recall that the data company denies any of the data was used in the Trump campaign, which should negate the Left’s main argument. But even if it’s lying, what Barack Obama did in his campaigns was far worse, and the Left, media and Obama’s own campaign folks admitted what they did, bragged about it, and were called geniuses by the media. Team Obama actually had the full cooperation of Facebook in accessing millions of account data directly. And after the fact, when questioned about the legality of their cooperation, Facebook said it normally would not provide such data but did so for Obama because “Facebook was on his side.” At least it was honest.
And Democrats are now calling for Mark Zuckerberg’s head, I guess because they are trying to blame him for Trump’s illegitimate win. Hearings are in the offing, with the apparent goal of more federal control over social media, which is a great idea if it might prevent folks like Trump from hoodwinking unsuspecting voters, but obviously not so much if folks like Obama benefit. That’s hypocrisy enough, but add to it the claim from Team Obama after its victory that the Facebook-enabled use of social media resulted in 337 electoral votes. In Exhibit A of the adage that timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance, there has never been any proof that social media ads made a big difference in any campaign — Russians included. Makes you wonder if the true Democrat motive is to discredit Zuckerberg and dissuade him from running for president in 2020. In case you didn’t know, Zuckerberg is a Democrat.
It will be fascinating watching Democrats try to come up with a platform for 2018 other than “impeach Trump.” Already we are seeing cracks on taxes, Hillary, and other issues, with no central unifying theme. The push/pull on whether to go far left or mirror the Pennsylvania win by backing DINO’s (Democrats in name only) is interesting only for the over/under on how long the debate will last before the far Left wins; checkbooks rule. But among the key events to watch will be whether Trump hatred, which includes denying him his senior admin personnel for as long as possible, wins out over, say, #MeToo.
I’m referring to the upcoming confirmation hearings for Trump’s CIA nominee, who is in line to be the first woman CIA head. She has a résumé that includes decades of being a real uber spy (what a novel idea for a CIA head) and rave reviews on performance. But she is also associated with the enhanced interrogation program put in place after 9/11. Forget that the program was authorized by the highest levels of government and Democrats and some GOPers at the time were demanding that the CIA do more of whatever it took to keep us from another attack; they are now shocked to find that some CIA personnel actually did their jobs.
Enhanced interrogation will obviously be part of the confirmation hearings, but the real question is whether there will be perfunctory questions on the current CIA position on enhanced interrogation or whether Democrats will grandstand and try to make the nominee’s involvement in it a disqualifying offense. My bet is that even in the age of #MeToo, Trump hatred will rule, and the confirmation hearings will be loud, long, partisan and decidedly holier than thou — perfectly in line with the Democrat checkbook-induced, anti-Trump-only platform.