NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Kimberly Atkins of the Boston Herald and Reihan Salam of the National Review to discuss the stalled talks between the U.S. and North Korea, President Trump’s insistence that there was a spy on his campaign, and whether his attacks on the FBI are similar to his attacks on the press.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
So is this the end of President Trump’s deal-making with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, or could the summit still happen? To discuss these and other questions from the week in politics, we’re joined now by Kimberly Atkins of the Boston Herald and Reihan Salam of the National Review and The Atlantic. Welcome to both of you.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Hi. Thank you.
REIHAN SALAM: Thanks for having us.
SHAPIRO: I want to start with a line from President Trump’s book “The Art Of The Deal” where he writes, the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead. Reihan, do you think that’s what happened this week with President Trump and North Korea?
SALAM: It’s hard to say. There is one alternative narrative, which is simply that if you’re looking at the Republican foreign policy community, there has always been deep skepticism about the wisdom of precipitously pursuing a summit with North Korea without doing a great deal of legwork partly because the North Koreans have dangled concessions in the past without actually delivering much in the way of meaningful concessions. So that’s why there has been a real sigh of relief among many who take a more hawkish view on North Korea.
On the other hand, the president had promised to be unconventional, had promised to break with old patterns in various ways. And so that’s one thing that seems to have changed. He seems to have pulled back arguably for the best but in a way that certainly does remove some of the luster of his promise to offer a different kind of diplomacy.
SHAPIRO: Kimberly, what’s the narrative you offer? I mean, everybody was taken by surprise when this letter came out yesterday morning. Allies weren’t notified. There were still Americans in North Korea. What’s the narrative that you give this?
ATKINS: Yeah, I mean, it could be a lot of things. It could be a matter of the president, you know, playing a little gamesmanship. As he said just today, everybody plays games with this sort of negotiation. He might be taking the same approach he took in his New York real estate deals – sort of, you know, if the deal doesn’t look good, walk away and see if that gives you more leverage. I mean, from the beginning, he’s been taking an unconventional approach to this. And, you know, he probably sees in Kim someone who negotiates in a lot of ways that he does – with bluster and threats and then sort of trying to come to the table. So it could be a matter of that.
It could also be the fact that the United States is realizing that they did not have the same definition of denuclearization that North Korea did and that North Korea was in no – it has no interest in a fast denuclearization without getting anything in return. They want something that’s more incremental and long-term and in exchange for something that looks a lot like the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump hates. So that might be a reason for pulling back as well.
SHAPIRO: Speaking of pulling back, I want to look at some of the headlines this week on Trump’s deal-making. The New Yorker says today “President Trump Is A Better Dealbreaker Than Dealmaker.” The Financial Times has “Trump’s Art Of The Self-harming Deal.” In The New York Times, it’s “An Artless Negotiation From The President Who Penned ‘The Art Of The Deal.'” And that column is actually about China, not North Korea. So, Reihan, how does this cancellation of the summit…