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It seems the past few days, the predominant theme of my commentary has been “double standards.” As I sit and watch the almost surreal satellite pictures from Singapore of President Trump and Kim Jong-Un shaking hands and putting pen to paper on a denuclearization deal, it’s impossible not to think of that again. The vicious rants and constant negativity we see in the media against Trump --- on “news” shows, late-night “comedy,” even the Tony Awards --- contrast vividly with the images coming into our living rooms from Singapore, the ones showing Trump doing the kind of thing we put this tough negotiator in office to do.
And we can’t help imagining the kind of reception it would have gotten in the media if it had even been attempted by President Obama. Watch five minutes of the Trump-in-Singapore coverage on MSNBC, if you can stand it, and then think how worshipful the coverage would have been for the previous President. Obama got a Nobel Prize for doing, well, nothing, so I suppose they’d have had to invent a new Incredible Amazing Super-Genius Nobel Prize for him if he’d done this.
But while we wait for more details of the North Korea deal, there’s yet another double standard to take a look at. Andrew C. McCarthy points out a very interesting one relating to the Russia investigation, observing that the same journalists who slam Trump as thinking he’s “above the law” for not submitting to questioning by the special counsel are outraged that the Justice Department would investigate journalists to find the source of classified government leaks.
But if it’s okay to investigate the President of the United States, why not them? Are THEY above the law? “Whether we’re talking about journalists or presidents,” McCarthy says, “the situation is the same. An investigative demand is made on people whose jobs are so important to the functioning of our self-governing republic that they are given some protection, but not absolute immunity, from the obligation to provide evidence to the grand jury.”
From examining email and phone records, the Justice Department determined that Ali Watkins, a 26-year-old reporter for The New York Times, was sleeping with her source, who happened to be the security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, 57-year-old James A. Wolfe. This reporter must have hit the Mother Lode, source-wise, because Wolfe’s job was receiving, maintaining and managing all classified intelligence shared with the committee by U.S. intelligence agencies, and his avocation seems to have been leaking information.
According to Wolfe’s indictment, he exchanged “tens of thousands of electronic communications” with her, including texts and phone calls, and even “encrypted cell phone applications.” Not only were the communications decidedly anti-Trump, but one tip he gave her about Carter Page being approached by Russian spies in 2013 was just the thing needed by the Clinton campaign to give a reason besides the unverified “dossier” to get a FISA warrant against Page. (It should be noted that Page had cooperated with investigators to help them arrest the Russian operatives.)
When questioned by the FBI, Wolfe lied about his relationship with Watkins (correcting the record when presented with evidence) and also about giving her non-public information or leads. He also denied contacting other reporters, but the email and phone records apparently say otherwise.
To get this evidence, the DOJ used subpoenas to telecommunications companies pertaining to the journalists, but took a cautious route: no content of the conversations, except, it appears, on Wolfe’s end. It’s likely he was using devices issued to him for government business (you know, the kind of devices Hillary was supposed to be using).
Anyway, McCarthy points out that in 1972 the Supreme Court held that journalists are legally obligated to testify when subpoenaed and to answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation. (The promise of confidentiality they give their sources is not legally enforceable.) But because a free press is so important to our republic, certain very stringent conditions must be present for reporters to be required to give up information, and they are rarely made to. In the Wolfe case, those conditions were met.
Anyway, journalists who think their job is so important that it rises above any legal challenge need to recognize that the President’s job is arguably the most important job on the planet, and if they deserve the deference they get, they should acknowledge that he deserves some, too. They seem to forget he has a job to do –- as he’s trying to do right now to bring peace and stability to the Korean peninsula –- and that it will be bad for the country if the “Russia” investigation dominates his time. But many journalists would cheer that. It’s just one more double standard.
I was anxiously awaiting the morning shows and headlines from the liberal media to see how they could possibly spin President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-Un as a horrible, awful, no-good, very bad thing. And they didn’t disappoint. It seems that Trump failed by not calling out Kim on being a murderous, oppressive dictator to his face (they seem a bit unclear on the subtleties of negotiations). He also didn’t get Kim to promise to empty his prisons and respect human rights (certainly the ultimate goal, but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and you first have to convince a killer to put down his gun before you can reform him.) Then there’s the ever-popular, “Trump gave Kim what he wanted: legitimizing him by appearing next to him on the world stage.”
That’s odd, I thought these people spent the past 18 months “resisting” legitimizing Trump as America’s President. Now, they think he’s so legitimate that his mere proximity causes legitimacy to rub off on those around him, like glitter off of Elton John’s dinner jacket. This idea that a US President can’t talk to a tyrant because it might “legitimize” him is absurd. How else do we deal with him? Do we simply ignore his threats and refuse to speak to him? That was the policy throughout the Obama years. To quote Dr. Phil, “How did that work out for ya?” News bulletin to Washington: you can’t solve problems you refuse to admit exist (See “national debt” and “Social Security and Medicare ‘trust funds.’”)
I seriously doubt anyone is rushing to market cuddly Kim Jong-Un Beanie Baby dolls. We all know what he is. The point of the meeting was to see if he can change. If not, we’ll have to deal with him in harsher ways, and Trump made it clear he’s well aware of that fact. Meanwhile, how many of Trump’s critics were equally outraged over Obama “legitimizing” some of the awful leaders he did opt to deal with, like the Muslim Brotherhood-backed President of Egypt, the mullahs of Iran, or the Castros in Cuba? Or Hillary Clinton's meetings with Vladimir Putin? Or Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meeting with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il? As Mike Rowe would say, dealing with these high-placed lowlifes is a dirty job, but “somebody’s gotta do it.” At least Trump approached this tyrant from a position of strength instead of with a no-strings-attached planeload of money.
The unrelenting attacks even on a day like this remind me of a great comment I saw on a story on the Internet. Someone wrote that Trump could end all war and cure cancer, and the New York Times would respond with an article about the suffering of unemployed undertakers.
A pro-Trump PAC is suing the Federal Election Commission for failing to take action on a complaint they filed against the Democratic National Committee. They claim that during the 2016 election, the DNC and the Hillary Victory Committee engaged in a criminal conspiracy to launder illegal campaign contributions.
Hillary allegedly raised money for state Democratic parties, for whom donation restrictions are looser. The money was then passed to the DNC, which, instead of spending it on state races, kicked it back to the Hillary campaign. The result was that about $84 million donated for state races instead went to Hillary’s campaign war chest. The plaintiffs say big money donors didn’t care about state races, they were giving up to $300,000 each to try to buy influence in Hillary’s Administration (one more time, Dr. Phil: “How did that work out for ya?”)
It will be fun to see the Democrats explain why this is a dollar-menu nothingburger after just last month howling about Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, who got lockup, a felony record and a stiff fine for a campaign donation violation that was a microscopic fraction of the size of this one.
There’s good news for Chicagoans who don’t want to give up their neighborhood for the Obama Presidential Library: All the surviving records could probably fit onto one old floppy disc.
Just how cowed by PC trolls is the CEO of Twitter? He tweeted about the discount he got with his Chick-fil-A app...he was attacked for eating Chick-fil-A food during Gay Pride Month…and he actually apologized! Speaking on behalf of everyone else: where can we get that app?
Hooray for Domino’s Pizza for stepping up when Congress failed to fund highway improvements. Domino’s will provide the dough to fill potholes. No, not that kind of dough. They’re not filling potholes with cheese, either. We need drivers to keep moving, not slam on the brakes and leap out.
As predicted, today turned out to be a day that will go down in history. It’s the worst day ever for Robert DeNiro. And Stephen Colbert. And Joy Behar.
But even more importantly, it is a “yuuuuuuge” turning point for relations between North Korea and the US (and the world.) We saw the culmination of a stunning series of events that started with nuclear threats and twitter insults between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and President Trump, events that brought warnings of a nuclear apocalypse...but which somehow led to a friendly meeting between the two, followed by a surprise signing of a document crafted in secret but changed at the last minute to add more concessions from Kim, such as agreeing to destroy a missile engine testing site. Trump had previously said that it might take several meetings before they reached the stage of signing anything. I guess unlike previous Presidents, he thinks it’s not a good negotiating strategy to let the other side know what you plan to do before you do it.
The know-it-alls who mercilessly mocked Trump’s tweets about “Rocket Man” and “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” learned, via a post-summit interview with Sean Hannity, that the strong rhetoric was an important part of Trump’s strategy to get Kim to the table and it worked. Trump even admitted that he felt foolish and a little embarrassed about tweeting it at the time. Don’t worry, Mr. President: there are other people who should definitely feel more foolish and embarrassed than you.
Trump made it clear that the document is not a treaty or agreement, just an early-stage declaration of intentions. He’s taking the Reagan approach of “trust, but verify” (in one amusing moment during his post-signing press conference, he said if Kim fails to live up to his promises, he’ll come back in six months and admit he was wrong – well, actually, he’ll probably make an excuse and not admit he was wrong. That may be the most honest thing anyone in politics has said in years.)
The document calls for North Korea to completely dismantle its nuclear program, which Trump said will take a long time due to scientific constraints, but once it's started, can't be reversed. The US will halt its joint war games with South Korea that Kim saw as a provocation (Trump noted that will save the US a lot of money anyway) and offer some security guarantees, but the nuclear disarmament must come first and be verified before any concessions, such as lifting sanctions, are made. So there’s still a long way to go, but at least this is a hopeful start that we never could have imagined just one year ago.
Trump also got Kim to agree to return the remains of MIAs and POWs from the Korean War to their families in the US, many of whom had urged Trump to help finally bring them some closure after many years. When asked why he thought Kim had seemingly changed his attitude and this wasn’t yet another sucker deal, Trump credited the attention focused North Korea over the treatment and death of American Otto Warmbier, which shocked and saddened the world. He kindly assured Warmbier’s parents that their son had not died in vain.
As to why Trump has seemingly accomplished what previous Administrations could not, one could argue that he had a tough, competent team; he understands that you negotiate from a position of strength; he didn’t delegate his authority to the U.N.; and he’s the master of the “art of the deal.” But don’t discount the importance of bringing a businessman’s perspective to a process that’s heretofore been dominated by professional diplomats, bureaucrats and politicians.
Trump revealed that he’d had a computer-animated video created to show Kim on his iPad, illustrating the kind of booming economic development North Korea could enjoy if it turned away from war and opened its society. He even pointed out the excellent “location, location, location” of having real estate between China and South Korea, and noted that the beaches where Kim put cannons could be the site of luxury hotels. He said this seemed to have an impact on Kim.
In fact, after meeting with Trump, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kim not only agreed to give up his nukes, but also to buy a timeshare condo in a Trump resort.
If you buy the narrative that the whole world holds President Trump in contempt, here’s the reception he received in Singapore that you likely didn’t see on certain news channels.
One of the more surreal sidelights to the startling and momentous events in Singapore was an interview given by ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman to CNN. Rodman became friendly with Kim Jong-Un after he started visiting North Korea five years ago to help train basketball players. His description of the murderous dictator as a “big kid” who just likes to have fun brought him mockery in the US from late night comics, and, he told CNN, so many death threats that he couldn’t go home for 30 days.
Wearing a red “MAGA” cap and a T-shirt promoting his sponsor (a marijuana-based cryptocurrency), Rodman became emotional as he praised Trump (whom he knows from “Celebrity Apprentice”) and blasted Barack Obama. He revealed that he had tried years ago to deliver a message from Kim to Obama about his willingness to negotiate, but Obama "didn't even give me the time of day -- he just brushed me off.”
This is part of a new twist on the double standard (call it “Celebrity Double Standard.”) The media celebrated Obama as the king of cool for hanging out with stars such as Jay-Z, Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen. But they ridiculed Trump for meeting with Kim Kardashian, even though it led to him commuting a life sentence for an African-American great-grandmother convicted of a non-violent drug crime. And they mocked Dennis Rodman, even though he now praises Trump for doing what Obama refused to and possibly turning a new page in history with the North Korea summit. So the media’s problem isn’t with Presidents talking to celebrities; it’s with them talking to anyone who’s not an A-list celebrity. Or who has an actual issue to discuss.
Just a reminder of something that Trump has always kept in mind: despite the sniping about his own ego, he realizes that the job of President is, at its core, a civil service job. He knows he doesn’t work for the political establishment or the media, he works for the people. Kim Kardashian and West Virginia coal miners have just as much right to his attention as Hollywood moguls or Wall Street bankers. That’s why he recently took 90 minutes out of his incredibly busy schedule to shake the hand of each and every graduate of the US Naval Academy.
It’s ironic that a President who was criticized for being a “celebrity” seems to care so little about whether the people he helps or listens to are celebrities. Maybe it’s because he has spent so much time in Hollywood and New York celebrity circles that the A-listers' endless attacks on him don’t faze him. He’d probably rather have the approval of construction workers, anyway.
Prayers and get well wishes to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who suffered a “mild” heart attack Monday and was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Doctors say he is in good condition and is expected to make a full and speedy recovery.