This was the sentence that began the bromance between President GW Bush and Vadimir Putin. It finished, “…and I saw into his soul. He’s a good man.” That got us an invasion of Crimea and the upward mobility of a 2nd rate economy headed by a former ranking officer of the KGB who is doing his damnedest to unsettle NATO and other US-based alliances. Great guy. Soulful.
Bush, however, didn’t come to this soul-searching statement with any ophthalmological training, nor did he head into it with several months of to-the-brink-of-war name-calling either.
Historians I fear will rank right next to the Bush observation, the one by President Donald J. Trump who announced to the world that it would take him about one minute to scope out what kind of guy Kim Jung Un was because “that’s what I do” (for a living, one supposes the art of the deal he meant). He also said he didn’t need to prepare much because again deals were what he did.
So I wonder what kind of guy this guy is. I had an uncle I didn’t like. He was very rich. When I bought my first car he loaned me the money, maybe $1,800. It came with a stiff admonition that it was for two years and he expected on the first of every month 1/24 of it. I liked him even less then, but you know, it never crossed my mind to kill him. I’ve known people I didn’t trust but who would have thought to hire some women to try to poison them to death. And those folks who appear in photos, smiling and saluting, who don’t seem to be in next year’s addition–or anywhere for that matter, shouldn’t we wonder where “Rocket Man,” our new best friend, has them stashed? But what the hey, that was then and this was now. Rebirth is what that handshake accomplished.
For a minutes worth of flesh, you don’t get more than a feeling or quick peek into a soul. And for the president’s handshake, that’s what we got–not much. We got no verification promises. We got no list of nukes or facilities. We got no definition of denuclearization. We did get the same promise Kim’s family made to the South Koreans 28 years ago, the promise of denuclearization of the peninsula. In 28 years that promise brought us a fully nuclearized weapons system that can reach these United States.
On the other hand, Kim did better for his handshake. Without consulting our allies or our Defense Department, our President gave him a cessation of the joint readiness military exercises and a promise that our 32,000 troops will be headed home “when the time is right.” Oh yes, and those pesky overflights by B-52’s and U-2 spy planes, “at great savings” we will stop those too. He also got the photo shoot of a lifetime and the integrated placement of his flag next to ours for all the world to see. Maybe the over-excited Fox news reporter was on to something the other day when she shared that history will be made “when these two dictators meet.” Oh, my.
There is a reason this nation’s social fabric is in tatters. Immigration, voting rights, racism and worse. Americans are not happy. That makes for an unhappy nation. The reason is that no one at any level in government that means something knows anything, other than maybe academically, about intergroup relations and ethnicity. They have no clue what makes non-white, non-Christian Americans tick. So why should be shocked when leaders of non-white, Non-Christian countries take us to the cleaners when it comes to what we think something means and what it actually turns out to mean?
As mother used to say when presented with the logic of her teenage son, “Give me a break!”