The Photo Ops That Define Trump’s Biggest Failures

Two years ago, he posed with Kim Jong Un at North Korea’s border—and accomplished nothing.

With all that’s going on in the world, it is understandable that most of us missed the second anniversary of Trump’s photo-op with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the demilitarized border between North and South Korea. But nothing demonstrates Trump’s utter failure as a president more than his posturing on that issue.

It all started with a lot of chest-thumping about six months after the inauguration. Trump told reporters that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” That was followed by a lot of name-calling and insults, ending in a verbal competition over who had the biggest nuclear button.

Kim Jong Un then invited Trump to a meeting in Singapore, which took place in mid-June 2018. All of a sudden the blustering stopped, with Trump saying that the North Korean dictator was “very smart” with a “great personality.” He went on to tell Greta van Susteren that Kim “loves his people.” The meeting ended with the two leaders signing an agreement, which was nothing more substantial than a promise to negotiate. The whole event was described as a propaganda victory for Kim Jong Un.

When Trump returned from that meeting, he indicated that he envied the way the autocrat ruled.

In a most bizarre turn of events, by September Trump and Kim were supposedly exchanging “beautiful letters,” and “fell in love.” So they scheduled another meeting, which took place in Vietnam in February 2019. That one ended badly.

A working lunch was canceled, a joint declaration scrapped and Trump’s press conference moved up several hours. He then told the assembled journalists that no deal had been agreed to, and that “sometimes you have to walk.”

But then a few months later, while Trump was in Japan, he tweeted out an invitation.

That turned into a reality television-style photo-op of epic proportions, but accomplished nothing. Nevertheless, both Trump and his enablers started talking about how the president deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his accomplishments with North Korea.

Two years after their first meeting, Kim Jong Un continues his ballistic missile tests. He has publicly said that North Korea is no longer interested in diplomacy with Washington and warned that he will resume testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

The guy who calls himself a great deal-maker emptied his bag of tricks—from bullying to love letters to photo-ops—and the only thing he accomplished was to provide a brutal dictator with a propaganda victory. Nothing sums up Trump’s failure as a president better than that chain of events.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.