Suggestion on 'Early Show:' Kim Jong Il Is Methodical And Delicate

July 7th, 2006 11:22 AM

For the second day in a row, Harry Smith, co-host of CBS’s "The Early Show" interviewed a guest about North Korea and its missile tests. Today’s analysis came from frequent guest Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. And while Smith once again referred to Kim Jong-Il as a nutcase and even inferred that he is a despot, he was easily amazed at O’Hanlon’s suggestion that he is crafty.

As noted, Harry Smith’s first question to O’Hanlon in essence described who Kim Jong-Il truly is:

"Before we talk about missiles I want to talk about Kim Jong-Il for a minute. It's not too extreme, I don't think, to say this guy is nuts. He has nukes. He runs a ruthless regime in North Korea where people routinely don't have enough to eat. This guy is the wild card of all wild cards. What else can we know about this guy?"

However O’Hanlon doesn’t believe the North Korean leader is nuts, he believes he is weird and he described the difference in his reply:

"Well, I would agree with that Harry, with one qualification. He is weird. I'm not sure I'd say he's nuts. And the distinction, and that is not to be too technical, but the distinction, I think, is that he is not likely to do something that's suicidal. People like that, as we all know have to work hard to get to positions of power and stay in them. And he has probably been pretty careful in this missile test sequence. For example, there wasn't a nuclear weapons test. That would have really led the international community to come down very heavy on him. He did not do that. He knew that with the missile test he would provoke us and the Japanese but not so much the South Koreans, Chinese, or Russians. And so, he's playing a delicate game here, and I think there's a certain method to the madness."

Harry Smith was so amazed by this analysis, he followed up:

"Wow. And what do you think that is?"

Instead of being awed by a response, shouldn’t Smith have challenged him a bit? Throughout the entire interview there was no mention of a report that says the Taepodong-2 missile tested by the North Koreans on Tuesday was fired on a trajectory towards Hawaii. If Kim Jong-Il is playing such a delicate game, and isn’t suicidal, why would he attempt to land a missile in the United States? It seems like this would be a relevant question for Smith to ask O’Hanlon, at least ABC found it relevant enough to mention.

Of course, we are supposed to take O’Hanlon’s word and analysis at face value because as Harry Smith pointed out in talking up O’Hanlon in the introduction, O’Hanlon wrote the book on North Korea:

"With North Korea refusing to back down on a threat to launch more test missiles, President Bush says diplomatic efforts will take time. Does the administration really have any other options? Michael O'Hanlon is a foreign policy analyst with the Brookings Institution and literally wrote the book on North Korea. Good morning, Sir."