On today's BradCast, experts are worried about Donald Trump's summit this week with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. But, given the overall menace to the world that our President represents, are those experts too worried about a deal that could, at least, keep Trump believing that he is "winning"? [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up today, the (non-nuclear) fallout continues in North Carolina, after the state Board of Elections last week voted unanimously for a new election in the state's 9th Congressional District following a Republican absentee ballot election fraud scandal tainted last November's never-certified 905-vote "victory" margin of Trump-endorsed Republican candidate and preacher Mark Harris over Democrat Dan McCready. State prosecutors on Friday disclosed their intentions to bring the matter --- along with evidence of similar GOP fraud allegedly carried out in the same district back in 2016 --- before a grand jury. It's still unclear who might be charged and for which crimes, given that GOP contractor McCrae Dowless is said to have carried out the scheme paid for by Harris, who also appears to have lied about it all under oath last week on the witness stand during the Board's week-long public hearings on the matter.
After last week's decision to hold a new election, McCready quickly announced his plans to run again, but the disgraced Harris has remained mum. During a press avail at the White House on Friday, after months of not mentioning it, Trump was finally forced to comment on the unprecedented election fraud scandal engulfing the candidate he campaigned for in NC last year. In world salad remarks, he offered a bunch of false, disproved, or otherwise evidence-free claims about supposed "voter fraud" in California, Texas, and Florida last year.
Meanwhile, on Monday morning, the President took off to Vietnam for his second nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Diplomatic, military and atomic experts --- and even senior Administration officials --- have reportedly been expressing concern for what Trump may give away during the upcoming meeting, as the North has only increased its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities following the pair's first meeting last June in Singapore, after which Trump falsely declared: "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."
Given Trump's 2017 "fire and fury" threats against Kim, however, are experts overly worried about whatever "deal" Trump may try to make with Kim in order to walk away with something he can pretend to be a "win"? In exchange for promises of eventual "denuclearization" or less, they worry Trump, could "give away", among other things, a permanent end to U.S. military exercises in the region; a peace treaty to once and for all end the Armistice struck between the North and South at the end of the Korean War in 1953; or even a promise to bring U.S. troops home from South Korea, where they have been stationed for decades during the long, if tenuous truce in Northeast Asia.
But are those things bad, in and of themselves? And, more to the point, with a U.S. President as wildly unbalanced and unqualified as our current one --- along with the need for "nuclear security triage", given that fact --- should we all just be happy that at least he now believes Kim is his best buddy?
Analyst STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, former publisher and executive director, now Senior Fellow at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists --- keepers of the so-called "Doomsday Clock" --- joins us to offer his insight and perspective on all of this in advance of this week's summit where, as I argue a bit today, a bad deal for the U.S. may be better than no deal, given the greater danger that Trump, with his finger on the nuclear button, presents to the world.
"In general, it's almost always a good thing when world leaders who are not seeing eye-to-eye on issues are talking rather than not talking, or arguing with each over Twitter, or setting up military confrontations up to and including war," Schwartz, who is also former editor of the Nonproliferation Review at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tells me. "With Donald Trump, however, you can't really be sure, because he's very much a captive of the last person that he spoke with and tends to take their perspective. He's also pretty mercurial. He can turn on a dime and he's desperate for attention, desperate for a win, and therefore that makes it more likely he will try to strike some sort of deal that allows him, at least on the face, to come out of this looking like he accomplished something. And that could be problematic."
He goes on to explain why he believes "Kim Jong Un has Trump right where he wants him;" charges that Trump "in this instance, is both the arsonist and the fireman," having "inflamed an already tense situation with North Korea and made it much worse;" but seems to agree with my general theory that a placated Trump results in an ultimately safer world --- at least during the short term while he's still in office.
Schwartz also responds to Trump's repeated insistence that the U.S. would be at war with North Korea by now, had Hillary Clinton been elected in 2016 ("No, in a word," he tells me), and also comments on Trump's "very foolish and counter-productive" recent decision to withdraw from the otherwise successful, decades-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, struck by Ronald Reagan with Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, and much more.
Finally, before leaving for Hanoi, Trump found time to tweet in response to Sunday night's Academy Awards Ceremony in Hollywood, where director Spike Lee won his long-overdue first Oscar for the screenplay of the remarkably timely BlacKkKlansman. Even though Lee never mentioned him by name during his acceptance speech citing 400 years since slavery began in America, our racist President found a way to inject himself into the proceedings by tweeting out today that Lee, a descent of slaves, was actually "racist". We close by discussing both that and a few of the must-see films that got robbed by the Academy this year...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)