Just hours after President Trump had concluded his historic summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the consensus from the mainstream media was that the whole event was a big nothingburger.
Mr. Trump won no hard concessions, the MSM said — nothing concrete on denuclearization, on human rights violations. In fact, said the talking heads and political pundits, the things Mr. Kim pledged to undertake in a multipoint agreement signed by both leaders have all been agreed to before.
What’s more, said the MSM, Mr. Trump had just legitimized Mr. Kim by deigning to meet with him, elevating his status to that of a world leader. He had also denigrated the legacy of all the men and women in the armed forces who had lost their lives battling the North Korean scourge, said liberals. And there was the familiar talking point that Mr. Trump — fresh off berating Canada for unfair trade practices — was making enemies of friends and friends of enemies.
But not so very long ago, the media went gaga over another president’s declaration that he’d speak with any rogue leader, any time, anywhere on the globe. That’s right, then-Sen. Barack Obama, when running for president in 2007, said he’d have no problem meeting with the leaders of Iran or Venezuela or Syria or Cuba — or even North Korea.
In a presidential debate, Mr. Obama was asked by a questioner via YouTube if he would be willing to meet without preconditions in the first year of his presidency with any of those leaders. “I would,” he said.
“It is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them,” Mr. Obama said then. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”
Just months before, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton had supported the idea. “You don’t refuse to talk to bad people. I think life is filled with uncomfortable situations where you have to deal with people you might not like. I’m sort of an expert on that. I have consistently urged the president to talk to Iran and talk to Syria. I think it’s a sign of strength, not weakness,” she said.
But, of course, Mrs. Clinton flipped on the subject during that 2007 debate with Mr. Obama, saying: “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes.”
To be fair, some Republicans objected to Mr. Obama’s declaration that he’d talk with leaders of enemy nations. His then-opponent, Sen. John McCain, ripped the Illinois senator for what he called “the dangerous consequences of a naive approach to presidential summits based entirely on emotion.”
Still, the media praised Mr. Obama’s forward-thinking attitude. And when Mr. Obama made a trip to Cuba — the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Communist ruled island since 1928 — the MSM loved it.
But not so for Mr. Trump’s efforts.
“Nuclear nonproliferation is a pillar of America’s national security,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement. “We respect any serious and real diplomatic efforts to achieve that goal on the Korean peninsula. Apparently, the President handed Kim Jong-un concessions in exchange for vague promises that do not approach a clear and comprehensive pathway to denuclearization and non-proliferation.
“In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo. The millions of families currently living in fear of nuclear weapons in the region deserve strong and smart leadership built on diplomacy and engagement with our regional partners and allies,” she said.
Shortly after the summit, Wendy Sherman, who had been a senior State Department official in the Obama administration, said on MSNBC that Mr. Trump should not have treated Mr. Kim as an equal — again parroting the talking points all over the MSM on Tuesday.
“I was a little taken aback by the North Korean flags and the American flags side by side,” she said. “We really aren’t side by side. We aren’t equals to each other, and this conferred power to Kim Jong Un that I don’t believe he has yet earned in terms of the respect from the United States.”
That’s the view of liberals across America right now: Mr. Trump’s a buffoon who’s giving away America.
But if Mr. Obama had done it — as he pledged; even if in the end, he didn’t — they’d have applauded.
Same as it ever was.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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