Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Earlier today, President Trump abruptly canceled a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to Mike Pompeo, the North Koreans had started refusing to meet with the US negotiating team. And the White House was taken aback at the statement by a North Korean official that seemed to threaten nuclear war.

The narrative that the left and their allies in the NeverTrump movement are trying to lock in is that Kim totally outmaneuvered Trump.

Personally, I think that is nuts.

Under President Trump, the US has ratcheted down sanctions to the point where many analysts estimate North Korea will exhaust its hard currency reserves around October-November. Those sanctions remain in place.

The North Koreans demolished their nuclear testing facility today.

Now, a lot of those in the “Trump was played” category were claiming this was no big deal because the facility was in dangerous condition anyway. Sounds like sour grapes to me. Even if it was in bad shape, demolishing it had a psychological impact. It signaled that negotiations were real. Now the facility is gone and there is no deal. I don’t think Trump got played on that.

And three American prisoners were brought home.

All of this was done and nothing was given in return.

At Axios.com, Jonathan has a broader take on what happened:

Our thought bubble, from Axios’ Jonathan Swan: Beyond the very serious geopolitical stakes, this move is pure Trump. A theatrical withdrawal from a potential “deal,” and reminder to Americans that he milked his adversary and gave them nothing in return. He thanks them for the release of the American hostages, reminiscent of how Trump used to privately gloat to business associates that he’d really taken somebody for a ride on a deal.

Is that true? I have no way of knowing. But it has been clear for a week that Trump has been tamping down expectations until yesterday he basically said he didn’t care. If, as I mention in my earlier post, the administration saw North Korea’s attack on Mike Pence as being a foreshadowing of the typical obstinate and bellicose North Korean negotiating style, they could very well have decided to walk away first. Regardless, you can’t look at a six-month moratorium on missile tests, an absence of border provocations, three freed prisoners, and a demolished nuclear testing facility as being proof of Trump getting played by Kim. If anyone was played, it was Kim.

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