Hypocrite Much? NYT’s Kristof Slams Trump’s ‘Dangerous Gamble’ on North Korea

After some liberal journalists initially praised President Trump’s willingness to meet with murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, a number of them remembered later Thursday night that they’re members of The Resistance. 

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was one such lefty, telling host Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s The Last Word that Trump has made “a dangerous gamble” despite Kristof’s past encouragement for direct talks and engagement.

 

 

“I think frankly it’s a dangerous gamble and a bad idea and in some ways I can’t believe I’m saying that because for years I’ve been arguing that we need to have direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea. But direct talks are one thing, and we need to have those negotiations. But any summit should be carefully preceded by — by going through what the rules are,” Kristof argued, acknowledging how he previously called for direct conversations. 

What’s also noteworthy there was his assumption that the Trump White House will walk into negotiations with the Kim regime without having done any homework. Along with political appointees, career State Department employees are made for situations such as this. It’s almost as if Kristof has no faith in the government!

Kristof continued:

And this is essentially a gift to North Korea. North Korea craves the recognition. It wants to be seen with its leader standing side by side with an American President. And it’s fine to have that as the outcome of a long process where we get what we want. But to give that away without getting anything back at the beginning I think is a mistake[.]

O’Donnell played devil’s advocate by invoking Bill Clinton’s failure to bargain with the North Koreans in 1994. But Kristof brushed that aside, stating that “Bill Clinton did not actually go to North Korea” (as if he assumed Trump has already made plans for that) and “the agreed framework” took “many months” to hammer out. 

Kristof then stated as a matter of fact that “in the end, of course, the agreed framework did not work out” and shifted back to him being “worried” about Trump.

O’Donnell pointed out that this was something that Barack Obama pushed for in his first campaign, but Kristof again conveniently decided that, a decade later, the liberal media’s favorite leader was wrong: 

I think that is like wise a mistake. I have somewhat more confidence in President Obama’s ability to follow a script and not suddenly go off course and promise things than I do in President Trump, but, you know, in either case, I think that a presidential visit is a huge gift to the North Korean regime, it legitimizes the regime. So it’s something to work toward. Something that we can deliver in exchange for things that they want but it shouldn’t be something that we just give away without even -- I mean, for example, there are three Americans who are still held prisoner in North Korea. A starting point should be a commitment for them to be released.

Once again, Kristof put the cart before the horse in assuming that Trump will visit Pyongyang when nothing has been set in stone. 

Kristof’s denunciations are interesting when placed in context. For example, he wrote a July 2015 column blasting Iran nuclear deal opponents with the title “Why the Naysayers Are Wrong About the Iran Deal.”

After visiting North Korea himself last year, Tom Blumer, Clay Waters, and then-NewsBusters intern Chris Reeves wrote of Kristof’s Walter Duranty-like propaganda push as well as condemnations of the Trump strategy.

It’s fair to say that the Trump move isn’t a conservative policy move. However, it is crucial to note that, from a media perspective, scores have flipped the script with a side of bitterness.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on March 8, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
March 8, 2018
10:31 pm. Eastern

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Shortly after that announcement the White House released a statement confirming that the President will meet with Kim Jong-un. “He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.” If you’re feeling a bit of deja vu about this, it could be because of this.

BILL CLINTON: today, after 16 months of intense and difficult negotiations with North Korea, we have completed an agreement that will make the United States, the Korean Peninsula, and the world safer. Under the agreement North Korea has agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program and to accept international inspection of all existing facilities. This agreement represents the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula

O’DONNELL: Joining us now Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times who has reported from inside North Korea at least three times as recently as September. Nick Kristof your reaction tonight’s news?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: So I mean it’s extraordinary to go one moment from threatening to totally destroy North Korea to comparing nuclear buttons to then promising a summit with Kim Jong-un and I think frankly it’s a dangerous gamble and a bad idea and in some ways I can’t believe I’m saying that because for years I’ve been arguing that we need to have direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea. But direct talks are one thing, and we need to have those negotiations. But any summit should be carefully preceded by -- by going through what the rules are. And this is essentially a gift to North Korea. North Korea craves the recognition. It wants to be seen with its leader standing side by side with an American President. And it’s fine to have that as the outcome of a long process where we get what we want. But to give that away without getting anything back at the beginning I think is a mistake and I guess I also worry that President Trump, as we’ve seen in negotiations, will periodically impetuously assert something and if that’s in the context of a discussion about budgets or gun policy, then his staff can walk it back later and said well, he didn’t quite mean that. In international diplomacy working out a deal with Kim Jong-un, that may be harder to walk back.

O’DONNELL: What’s the difference between 1994 where we saw Bill Clinton feel himself on the verge of something similar and where we are tonight?

KRISTOF: Crucially, Bill Clinton did not actually go to North Korea. He had this --the agreed framework was worked out by diplomats over the course of many months and during the negotiations, he — President Clinton required the North Koreans to stop reprocessing at their nuclear power plant at Nyongbyon. And in the end, of course, the agreed framework did not work out. The U.S. has some responsibility for their failure, North Korea has plenty, too. They were cheating on that as well. So there are reasons to be skeptical. We should have engagement and we should be trying to solve the nuclear crisis. So, you know, if this were — if he were sending Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang to talk about denuclearization to work toward a summit. That would be great. But right off the bat, giving them a summit, it makes me worried.

O’DONNELL: Barack Obama in his first campaign for President said he would be willing to have direct discussions with North Korea without preconditions.

KRISTOF: I think that is like wise a mistake. I have somewhat more confidence in President Obama’s ability to follow a script and not suddenly go off course and promise things than I do in President Trump, but, you know, in either case, I think that a presidential visit is a huge gift to the North Korean regime, it legitimizes the regime. So it’s something to work toward. Something that we can deliver in exchange for things that they want but it shouldn’t be something that we just give away without even -- I mean, for example, there are three Americans who are still held prisoner in North Korea. A starting point should be a commitment for them to be released.

O’DONNELL: And what about the -- the notion that North Korea has promised to stop nuclear testing and their missile testing in the meantime. Isn’t that some kind of concession?

KRISTOF: Yes. That really is important. And it’s — I think that is the most significant part of this, plus the fact that they accept we will have military exercises going ahead. So you do see what might be the outlines of an agreement. And that would involve their freeze on testing. But again, this should be an agreement to be hammered out by maybe HR McMaster and North Korean officials, and then sealed by the President. Rather than simply having President Trump sit down over dinner with Kim Jong-un and willy-nilly agreeing to who knows what.


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CyberAlerts Foreign Policy North Korea Double Standards Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC The Last Word New York Times Video Government & Press Nicholas Kristof Lawrence O'Donnell Donald Trump Kim Jong Un
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