Donald Trump went to Vietnam to try to strike a deal with Kim Jong Un over denuclearization. In the end, like so many Trump deals, he walked away with nothing.
Trump, the self-styled "master of the deal," had yet another negotiation go down in flames when his talks with North Korea's Kim Jong Un collapsed in the middle of their much-celebrated summit. Like many Trump deals, he walked away with nothing.
Of course, Trump is trying to spin this as if he engaged in a time-honored negotiation tradition of knowing when to walk away but it's clear that, despite his weird and constant flattery of Kim, a murderous despot, he just couldn't get a deal done.
Trump gave a press conference where he looked "visibly deflated," spoke in a monotone, and repeatedly referred questions to his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. And it's no wonder because there was no way for him to brag about what happened.
Perhaps once he is back stateside, he will have White House press secretary Sarah Sanders come back out and declare, as she did before the summit, that Trump was a diplomatic genius just for scheduling a meeting with Kim. Sanders had declared, before the summit, that Trump had already "had a great success here in the fact that they were able to sit down at the table."
Kim had said he was "prepared in principle to denuclearize" and would sign an agreement to that effect. The problem is that agreeing in principle to do something isn't really a deal — it's just an agreement to think about something. Indeed, that's all that happened in the summit in June 2018, where the result was a "vague communiqué" that promised nothing.
So, when it came time to strike an actual deal in Vietnam, things fell apart. Kim, unsurprisingly, only wanted to close one nuclear facility but wanted all economic sanctions lifted. Mercifully, Trump didn't agree to that.
Even with the deal utterly obliterated, even though he had to leave Vietnam with his tail between his legs, Trump still managed to take time to yet again fawn over Kim and their relationship: "There’s a warmth that we have, and I hope that stays. I think it will. But we’re positioned to do something very special."
At root, Trump is just bad at getting things done. He couldn't get health care done and he couldn't get his wall built, even when he had an all-Republican Congress at his disposal. There was no way he was going to out-maneuver Kim, no matter how many times he talked about their "special bond."
The fact that this deal went sideways on the same day that Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, went to Congress and detailed Trump's crimes, probably hurt most of all. Things just aren't looking good for the master of the deal.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.