If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then North Korea’s rhetorical skewering of Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden is a tribute to Trump…
North Korea more-or-less steals one of Trump’s favorite put-downs in its screed, which we’ve linked to here. The Communist propaganda machine echoing one of Trump’s favorite sobriquets for outspoken political rivals: “low IQ individual”. (Of course that taunt itself is an epitome of self-doubt, but we won’t go there today). And look at how carefully the North Korean statement is worded to both excoriate Biden and pay homage to Trump:
“It is by no means accidental that there is nonstop comment over his bid for candidacy that he is not worth pinning hope on, backed by the jeer that he is a fool of low IQ.”
Otherwise, the North Korean news release is pretty standard in terms of its crude, yet strangely politically sophisticated smack-downs of its international rivals. Among other things, it calls Biden “an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being” and also chastises him for:
“Self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate. This is enough to make a cat laugh.”
Still, it’s no wonder Trump’s responding positively, not just in praising a foreign despot over an American politician who happens to be a potential political challenger, but to the point at which he’s also dismissing warnings by his own staff over recent displays of power by that foreign despot as basically nothing:
Trump underscored that during a news conference after a weekend’s worth of meetings, sumo, and golf with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trump touted the economic potential of North Korea, describing the country as “all waterfront property” (which it’s not). Here’s a clip of that (click on the photo to watch):
It’s also no surprise this is all happening while Trump’s visiting Japan, which is well within reach of the type of short-range missiles North Korea has been testing, and is seriously and understandably mistrustful of Kim Jong-un. Yet Prime Minister Abe credited Trump with “cracking open the shell” of North Korea’s leader.
Of course, back when North Korea’s insults were directed at him, Trump was not chuckling; calling him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard”. Trump responded to that by asking: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?‘”
Trump’s response now is even more meaningful to North Korea probably, than it is to the U.S., because it sends a strong message that Trump is not listening to his National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton is reviled by North Korea because he was instrumental in—and proudly claims personal responsibility to anyone who will listen—for killing a near-deal with North Korea back in the administration of George W. Bush. In fact, North Korea has asked Trump to keep Bolton as far as possible from ongoing, but stalled talks, and the President has largely obeyed, assigning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as point person.
And in case that point was somehow being lost, North Korea later issued a separate set of insults aimed at Bolton, saying he’s “not a security adviser…but a security-destroying adviser“. And they curiously slam Bolton for evading military service in Vietnam, while failing to mention President Trump did the same.
And frankly, aside from Trump’s disturbing embrace of North Korean propaganda regarding American politicians and members of his own staff, Trump’s instincts may be right at this point in time. There probably is no advantage to accelerating conflict with North Korea, as Bolton seems to want to do, even if there is no clear path to an agreement.
So that makes all of this a lot of meaningless back and forth, right? Then why are we even bothering to cover it at all? Because we think there is a crucial question that lies at the center of all this: and that’s what does North Korea stand to gain (or think it stands to gain) by pitching in to keep Trump in power? Is it just meant to be a warm embrace of friendship from Kim Jong-un? Or does he expect to get something out of Trump he wouldn’t of another U.S. President? And if so, what’s that?