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The ‘Firenado’ That Will Consume Us If Trump Wins

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

It was August 2017 and Donald Trump had not yet warmed up to Kim Jong-un, North Korea's portly dictator. In fact, in typical Trumpian fashion, he was pissed at the Korean leader and, no less typically, he lashed out verbally, threatening that country with a literal hell on Earth. As he put it, "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." And then, just to make his point more personally, he complained about Kim himself, "He has been very threatening beyond a normal state."

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How North Korea’s Dictator Scammed Trump

Donald Trump had a bad week. He went to West Point to make himself look like a strong leader but raised doubts about his health when he struggled drinking water and descending a ramp. His first Supreme Court appointee wrote the opinion in a case upholding gay and transgender rights.

The court also struck down Trump's effort to deport undocumented foreigners brought here as children. His former national security advisor wrote a book painting the world's most powerful person as an ignorant sleazebag who was guilty of the impeachment charges and more.

Trump had to reschedule a Tulsa rally planned for Juneteenth, but he insisted on holding it the following day — risking lives in a state suffering a surge of the coronavirus. New polls showed him trailing Joe Biden by landslide margins.

In any other week, it would be major news that the North Korean government blew up an office building that had been used for meetings with South Korean officials. Ordinarily, Americans might have taken note that, as The New York Times reported, the regime is threatening "to extinguish the fragile detente with a new cycle of bellicose actions and military provocations."

Attention would have been riveted by disclosure in Bolton's book that Trump's get-togethers with Kim Jong Un were not about eliminating North Korea's nuclear program but merely at making himself look good.

In reference to the first meeting, in Singapore, Bolton says Trump told him "he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory, and then get out of town." Though Trump cared little about nukes, making sure that Kim received an Elton John CD "remained a high priority for several months."

Trump has been a failure in many areas, but nowhere else has there been a greater distance between what he claimed to achieve and what he actually did. In his telling, he averted the war that Barack Obama had been on the verge of initiating. "You would, right now, be in a nice, big, fat war in Asia with North Korea if I wasn't elected president," he claimed last year, in one of his hallucinatory episodes.

At the outset, it was Trump who sounded ready to launch an attack. In 2017, the Pyongyang regime carried out a successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The president responded by declaring that if North Korea threatened us, "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." In a speech at the UN, he said, "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

But soon Trump changed his tune. He dispatched CIA Director Mike Pompeo to North Korea, and soon he agreed to travel to Singapore to meet with Kim. He made this concession even though the CIA, according to NBC News, concluded that "North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons, but it may be open to allowing a western burger chain to open a franchise in the country."

In June 2018, his first summit with Kim yielded a vague joint communique and Trump's agreement to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. But he immediately tweeted, "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

In fact, Kim never gave up a single nuclear weapon. What he did instead was manipulate Trump with flattery. "He wrote me beautiful letters," the president gushed in 2019. "We fell in love."

But their love affair has not kept Kim from expanding his nuclear arsenal. Nor has he closed any of the reactors that produce weapons fuel. North Korea has gone back to regular missile tests. Last month, Kim convened his military leaders to announce "new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country," according to the government.

In short, Trump held three grand summits with Kim, bragged about eliminating the nuclear threat, expressed his love for the dictator — and has gotten a big fat nothing. Concludes Bolton, "We're now nearly three years into the administration with no visible progress toward getting North Korea to make the strategic decision to stop pursuing deliverable nuclear weapons."

Trump is the political equivalent of the lonely guys who get scammed by dating websites promising to connect them with hot Russian women. The promises he got from his heartthrob didn't pan out. But hey — he'll always have those letters.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

North Korea Dropkicks Trump, Vows To Expand Nuclear Arms

Two years after Donald Trump met with dictator Kim Jong Un in an effort to improve relations with North Korea and work toward its denuclearization, the regime says the diplomacy effort has turned into a "dark nightmare."

In a statement Friday, North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Son Gwon, said the country would expand its nuclear weapons program.

"Even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare," Ri said.He vowed that North Korea would never again "provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns."

Last year, Trump promised that his relationship with Kim would bring a nuclear deal.

"Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it," he tweeted last May. "He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!"

That was not the only time he talked up his unique ability to improve relations with North Korea.

Last April, he said that his personal relationship with Kim "remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate."

Trump added that he looked "forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!"

In September, he told the press, "I was given a lot of things. I was given North Korea, where, as you know, President Obama said, 'That's going to be the hardest problem.' And he said some very tough things about North Korea, that he thought it was going to be a problem. That hasn't turned out to be that kind of a problem."

In December, Trump defended North Korea's testing of short-range missiles as "not a violation" of their 2018 agreement.

"Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain — the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un's leadership, is unlimited. Also, there is far too much to lose," he wrote.

As recently as this April, Trump said that, if not for his leadership, the United States would be at war with Kim.

"Look, if I wasn't elected, you would, right now, be at war with North Korea. Okay? I'll tell you, for your people that don't understand the world and they don't understand how life works: If I wasn't elected, you would, right now — maybe the war would be over, hopefully with a victory," he told reporters.

Nuclear proliferation experts have said peace is unlikely as long as Kim remains in power.

"Despite the seeming convergence of political interests between Kim, Moon, and Trump, a fundamental remaking of the Korean Peninsula can happen only if Kim Jong Un makes a strategic decision to save North Korea by dismantling the Kim dynasty," Chung Min Lee, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Asia Program, wrote last November. "So long as he remains in power, however, Kim will never make that choice."

Former National Security Council member Jeff McCausland wrote last March, "One of Trump's biggest mistakes was his assumption that Kim needs the U.S. to dramatically improve its economic situation, and thus the nukes for sanctions trade makes sense. This is not accurate. An improved economy is not an ends for Kim, but rather a means."

Instead, he explained, Kim's "primary goal is to maintain his iron-clad control over the regime."

Trump's relationship with Kim has long been fraught with tension and back-and-forth insults. Trump mocked Barack Obama for not being tough enough with "the man child" in 2013 and derided Kim as "rocket man" in 2017. Kim called Trump a "dotard."

In early 2018, the two threatened each other with nuclear war: After Kim warned that he had a "nuclear button" on his desk, Trump tweeted "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

Later that year, Trump appeared to soften, exchanging letters with Kim and holding in-person meetings. Despite the two signing a document at their June 2018 Singapore summit vaguely promising "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" and to advance a new bilateral relationship based on "peace and prosperity," little changed.

Trump's promised peace deal never materialized and, by December 2019, North Korea was back to threatening to send the United States an ominous "Christmas gift." Trump downplayed the threat, saying the present could also be "a beautiful vase."

Kim announced days later that he would end a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons tests and that the world would see a new strategic weapon "in the near future."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Danziger: Rocket Science

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.