At this point, we are all used to presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump summoning various facts and figures and statistics from the unknowable morass that is his very good brain. So when he says there's a "10 percent or a 20 percent chance" that if he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un he could persuade him to be a good chap and never ever use nuclear weapons, I'm not going to waste my time parsing from whence those numbers came. What I am going to talk about is the fact that when Trump was asked if he'd meet with a volatile dictator who has committed a laundry list of lethal atrocities, he answered, "Who the hell cares?"
Speaking at an Atlanta rally Wednesday, Trump said there's no harm in opening a dialogue with Kim — it's just words, right? Words don't mean anything, not when we're getting absolutely ripped off by China on trade, when we never win anymore, or when you flip-flop your stated opinion on major policy quite a lot.
Trump told the crowd:
What the hell is wrong with speaking? And, you know what, it's called opening a dialogue. It's opening a dialogue. And I don't say it's gonna happen, and probably it won't. ... I wouldn't go there, that I can tell you. If he came here, I'd accept him, but I wouldn't give him a state dinner like we do for China and all these other people that rip us off when we give 'em these big state dinners. We give them state dinners like you've never seen. We shouldn't have dinners at all. We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table, and we should make better deals with China and others.
He made specific mention of those "damn nukes," saying he'd only "make a good deal for us." Trump also said that if anyone objected to such a meeting, "Who the hell cares? I'll speak to anybody."
But lots of people care, and with good reason. The way we treat dangerous, war crime-committing dictators, like Kim, is important. Trump's approach response to a man who a United Nations investigator said should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity for, among other ills, placing his countrymen in "slave-like conditions" seems too lackadaisical. To me, Trump's latest remarks send the message he's willing to set Kim's horrifying record aside, under the pretense of a diplomatic plan that doesn't really exist.
It's easy to dismiss Kim the way we once, and sometimes still, dismissed Trump — as overly sensitive, oafish nincompoops, the threat of whom is secondary to the comic relief they provide. But there's no way to argue that the way we handle them diplomatically doesn't matter. If Trump wants to meet with Kim, there'd better be an actual, precedent-worthy, fleshed-out purpose — not just because "who the hell cares."