When Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he was canceling his June 12th summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, we all knew why: Kim had already publicly threatened to pull the plug, and so Trump “canceled” it before Kim could. Now that the move has brought Trump criticism and scorn, he’s backtracking in a such a weird way, we’re not even sure we follow him.
Yesterday, Trump tweeted this: “We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.” Wait a minute, so now he’s saying that the meeting he just canceled might be back on again, and it might happen on the same date it was originally scheduled for.
Did Trump figure out that he’s taking more heat for canceling the meeting than he was expecting? Is he now trying to put it back on the table out of embarrassment? There is also another possible explanation: Trump simply doesn’t understand how leverage works. We’ve seen that during his decades in the business world. Trump has never once negotiated a favorable deal. Instead he’s routinely offered too-good-to-be-true deals to suckers, and then stolen their money. Trump has no idea how to negotiate anything with a fairly savvy (if obviously evil and deranged) opponent like Kim Jong-Un, and it’s showing.
Kim has all the leverage here, because he doesn’t need this meeting, and he knows that Donald Trump does. Trump is more vulnerable and closer to ouster than any U.S. President since Nixon in 1974. Trump is desperate for an accomplishment to hang his hat on, in the hope of turning things around. Unfortunately for Trump, Kim is well aware of this. Trump doesn’t seem to like that Kim is flexing his muscles, so Trump has tried to take control by canceling a meeting that he needed and Kim didn’t need. But now Trump isn’t going to be able to get the summit back on the table unless he agrees to additional concessions.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report