Has Kim Jong Un Read Trump's Book?

[ Posted Monday, May 21st, 2018 – 17:26 UTC ]

Donald Trump supposedly wrote a book on how to be the world's best dealmaker. He didn't actually write it, of course (hence the "supposedly"), and it's even doubtful whether he's ever even read it through, cover to cover. He's not a big reading guy, to put it as politely as possible. But the thoughts contained within The Art Of The Deal were indeed Trump's, painstakingly collected by his ghostwriter. What one has to wonder right now, though, is whether North Korea's Kim Jong Un is following Trump's dealmaking script better than Trump -- because from outside appearances, this now seems to be the case. Perhaps, unlike Trump himself, Kim Jong Un actually read (and took to heart) The Art Of The Deal.

I certainly can't claim to have read Trump's book myself, but it is reportedly set up as a collection of dealmaking tips from the king of dealmakers himself. Some of these tips are quite basic, and Kim Jong Un currently seems to be using two of them in specific to gain the upper hand in negotiations with Trump: "never let the other guy know you want the deal more than he does," and: "always be ready to walk away from the table." Both of these are essential in dealmaking, Trump tells us, because if the party across the table from you knows you are desperate to deal and will accept just about anything rather than walking away from the deal, then he can (obviously) strike a much better deal for himself, while you are left with less in return.

Donald Trump has broken both these basic dealmaking rules already, much to Chairman Kim Jong Un's delight. Trump has shown how desperate he is to make this deal in many ways, even unto not-so-modestly (and quite openly, in fact) coveting a Nobel Peace Prize with his name on it. Trump needs a big foreign policy deal, because to date he hasn't managed to negotiate a single one. He has broken many previously-agreed-to deals, but the only foreign deal he has put together to his credit (after almost a year and a half in office) is one bilateral trade deal with South Korea (who, for obvious reasons, has a vested interest in keeping Trump happy right now). That's it. One trade deal with one country. Not much to brag about after a year and a half in office, is it?

Which is why Trump is so keen on a big, sweeping North Korea deal. Unlike the South Korea deal, if this could be achieved it would be a very big deal indeed. The rest of the world would be forced to take notice, probably in a somewhat-favorable way. Many have pointed out that one of the things Kim Jong Un is seeking is acceptance on the world stage as a legitimate leader, but few have pointed out the other side of this coin: Trump is almost as desperate as Kim Jong Un to be accepted as a world leader by the rest of the planet. Trump craves their respect in the same way he's always craved the respect of the elites in Manhattan (who have always seen Trump as an outer-borough boor). This is quite likely why Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un in the first place, because such a summit would (if successful) give Trump worldwide respect, to some degree or another.

Trump's first big mistake, however, was in not realizing that for Kim Jong Un, the meeting itself (or even, as now seems possible, merely the concept of such a meeting) bestows legitimacy upon him, even absent an actual concrete deal. Kim Jong Un can now realistically cast himself in the same role as former leaders of the Soviet Union or the current leadership of China -- a nuclear power's leader, negotiating as an equal with the president of the United States. If Trump and Kim Jong Un meet, it will be called a "summit meeting" -- exactly as previous meetings between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. or China were. Kim Jong Un will be elevated to this prestige just by meeting with Trump. No deal will be necessary for Kim Jong Un to walk away with this prize.

Trump's second big mistake, so far, was to be so transparent in his longing for a deal. He has tried to coyly remain aloof, saying things like: "A deal might happen, but it might not," as if he's not all that concerned about the prospects of success -- but so far he hasn't been very convincing. Basking in adoring crowds yelling: "Nobel! Nobel!" hasn't helped much, either.

Trump badly wants a deal because achieving one would justify his entire worldview of how he and he alone can do things differently than all the other politicians who came before him. Rather than hammering out all the myriad details of a complex deal before a summit meeting between leaders can take place, Trump will upend the model and meet face-to-face with Kim Jong Un at the start of the process. This will, Trump believes, cut through all the nonsense from the pointy-headed diplomats, because the two leaders will reach an agreement in a few hours' negotiation. Trump will emerge at the end of the conference with a deal in hand, and by doing so prove all his detractors wrong. "See how easy it was?" you can almost hear him boasting, even in advance. Also: "This is the best, most tremendous deal the world has ever seen," even if that is far from the actual truth.

The problem for Trump is now that Kim Jong Un knows full well how important the summit meeting and any prospective deal has become, to Trump. Trump's never going to walk away from the table now. If he did so, after such a hyped buildup, then the rest of the world would just laugh at him, because it would confirm their worst opinions about Trump -- that he is incompetent and that the summit was a really bad idea in the first place. This puts Trump on the wrong end of the dealmaking stick (according to his own book), because Trump wants the deal more than Kim Jong Un and Trump really doesn't want to walk away from the table.

Kim Jong Un obviously is aware of all this, because he has now changed his own bargaining position. He will not be discussing unilateral nuclear disarmament with Trump, because he never was going to agree to this in the first place. He dangled this prospect in front of Trump, but because Trump so eagerly took the bait, Kim Jong Un can now snatch it away -- leaving the best prospects for any deal to be struck at the summit of rather limited scope. Trump will not walk away with a Nobel-Prize-worthy deal, instead he will have to settle for some lesser joint statement about vague aspirational goals that might be agreed to in future negotiations. That's not exactly what Trump is hoping for, obviously, but it would be enough for Kim Jong Un to walk away from the table and claim complete success. By building his own expectations up so high, Trump set himself up to be disappointed, to put this another way.

Add to all of this the fact that Trump's advisors are openly admitting that Trump has almost zero interest in preparing for the summit meeting in any meaningful way. Trump famously does not read briefing books, and he has apparently shown little interest in learning the details of what America's goals with respect to North Korea really should be. Trump has unleashed the most belligerent of his advisors (John Bolton) to spout off in public what their strategy will be, which has only made the situation ten times worse. In fact, North Korea may now well demand that Bolton not be a party to any of the discussions at the summit, or else they will walk away from the table. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

In other words, North Korea has taken the advice contained within The Art Of The Deal to heart, while Trump has apparently either forgotten his own advice or has badly bungled his bargaining position in complete contradiction to this advice. North Korea's Kim Jong Un has already scored a diplomatic coup by getting Donald Trump talking about meeting with him one-on-one, as an equal. Trump now obviously wants such a meeting much more than Kim Jong Un, which the North Koreans have already begun leveraging to change the parameters of what will even be discussed. After Kim Jong Un cancelled a planned meeting with South Korea's leader in protest of American B-52s being used in a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise, Trump backed down and cancelled the B-52s. So much for this summit meeting being "without preconditions." The North Koreans set a precondition, and Trump blinked -- further proving how badly Trump wants this meeting. This also proves how far Trump will bend over backwards to avoid North Korea walking away from the table.

Rather than spending hours being briefed on North Korea and America's foreign policy goals, Trump might just benefit more by spending a few hours reading his own book, because at this point it seems he's forgotten some of the basics of dealmaking. He's making glaring errors his own book warned against, and we're still weeks away from any actual meeting. To avoid making further dealmaking blunders, Trump might just benefit from taking his own advice to heart. Because it is looking more and more like Kim Jong Un is the one who has recently read Trump's book, because of how masterful Kim Jong Un has been at using Trump's own advice against him.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


29 Comments on “Has Kim Jong Un Read Trump's Book?”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    The stupid party have their king, and it is all going as expected. He'll need a war soon to try to make himself popular and important. Iran might be a tough one though - likely to crash the markets and upset the Republican's owners. I'm guessing it is time to invade Granada again, or something like that.

  2. [2] 
    John M wrote:

    [1] neilm

    "Iran might be a tough one though - likely to crash the markets and upset the Republican's owners. I'm guessing it is time to invade Granada again, or something like that."

    Trump has 3 choices for going to war:

    1) North Korea: This option would be the most costly, however you want to cut it. In terms of lives lost, both civilian and American service members, financially, and in terms of domestic political support. But it would also be the easiest to justify, and the one with most allied support, even if we are dragging South Korea and Japan into it kicking and screaming, they would have almost no choice but to support whatever America does.

    2) Iran: This option would be the one having Bolton and the neocons salivating the most, along with the Israeli hardliners. It also has the advantage of at least having hard line right wing American domestic support. On the downside, it would also likely be the one most strongly opposed by both China and Russia, and lack any significant European, British or French support as well. Except for possibly Israel joining an American bombing campaign, we'd be fighting it totally alone by ourselves. It would also unleash a wave of international terrorism the likes of which we have never seen before.

    3) Venezuela: This would be the surprise dark horse candidate, but the one I would choose if I were Trump, especially given what he has said previously about the poor plight of the Venezuelan people fighting against oppression. It certainly would be the easiest or least costly in military terms by far. Though the effect on our relations with the rest of Latin America would be catastrophic, it would also probably garner the least amount of anxiety among the general domestic American public. Trump's version of Reagan's Grenada, but lacking international support.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    neilm [1] -

    Now that you mention it, Granada has been getting rather uppity lately...


    John M [2] -

    OK, that was depressingly realistic. But how about Cuba? Bay of Pigs 2.0? Anyone? Bueller?


    Sorry, I should be taking this more seriously, I know...


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, finally answered comments back to last Thursday, so go check it out...

    ...especially hally826, whose first comment had to wait in the moderation queue all weekend long (sorry 'bout that...).


  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    More: I skipped Wednesday, but also worked back to last Mon. and Tues., for everyone's info...


  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Trump's deal making paradigm is simplicity itself:

    Know Your Rube

    Over Promise

    Under Deliver (Cheat)


    Declare Victory

    Find new rube

    The problem with applying this procedure to N.Korea is the very first step. Trump doesn't know his rube-he is the rube.

    Have you ever noticed the uncanny physical resemblance between Trump and his mother? Warning: Disturbing Image...swallow and secure your beverage container before viewing!

  7. [7] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Or maybe Yemen, under the guise of joining a regional coalition to put down a rebellion? It's a Muslim country, to keep the anti-Islam lot happy, the Saudis are already intervening there, so no Saudi oil would be cut off, and since the areas under attack are already starving, it shouldn't be too hard to proclaim 'victory'. And even if Iran is not, in fact, supporting the Houthi rebels, who cares about facts over propaganda?

  8. [8] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    re: Mzm [8] - Yemen almost makes too much sense. We even have a military base on the African horn, directly across from it, if I'm not mistaken.

    Trouble is, is that it's not on anyone's radar right now - the neocons are distracted beyond repair by the prospect of invading Iran, which has been a goal of theirs since puberty. They had her poster on the wall of their dorm rooms in college. Yemen's just a bad girl from the south side compared to their desire to invade princess Jasmine. It's a creepy obsession they've been stalking for several years, and Obama's agreement to "just be friends" drove them insane.

    On the other hand, Yemen and Venezuela aren't exactly as easy as they look. These would be very expensive forays with questionable ends. As Bush learned the hard way, the most important question is: what does the morning after look like?

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    CW is not required to respond to the same question multiple times. since you've asked it multiple times, i'll refresh your memory. his response is that he doesn't place donor-driven campaign finance reform very high on his priority list, and doesn't see it as very realistic. as it happens, this puts him squarely in line with most voters. while it's probably true that the participation of ten percent of the electorate in your group would have an impact, that's still over 20,000,000 people. once your membership demonstrates its viability and reaches one twentieth of its goal (i.e. one million), i'm sure CW would be happy to publish about it.


  10. [10] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    TheStig [7]

    Great, can never UNSEE that!

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Aren't you supposed to be busy bravely writing your own blog right now like you suggested?

    All this needs to get started is one brave reality-based blogger to inform citizens about this opportunity now.

    Serious Question: How is it that you expect anyone to take your repeated BS seriously if you don't?

    Asking for a friend. :)

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:


    He'll need a war soon to try to make himself popular and important.

    Yes, sir... and in lieu of an all out war, remember the object of the exercise, who is pulling the strings, and the many ways in which Syria could factor into the equation. :)

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    The problem with applying this procedure to N.Korea is the very first step. Trump doesn't know his rube-he is the rube.

    Bingo... and simply extrapolate that fact and apply it to darn near everything in the Trump orbit. It's sad enough when the rubes fall victim to the con, but it's positively pathetic when the con falls victim to his own bullshit.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:


    Have you ever noticed the uncanny physical resemblance between Trump and his mother? Warning: Disturbing Image...swallow and secure your beverage container before viewing!

    When Scotland sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime...

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:


    Pretty sure me starting my own blog was someone else's idea.

    You seem oblivious to the fact that more than one person can have the same great idea. Why would you insist of others what you're not willing to do yourself? You lack the courage of your convictions, and there's a word for that... several words, in fact.

    And it's you that don't take me seriously.

    You mustn't take that personally, Don, it's just something about trolls.

    And possibly CW. It is impossible to know for sure until CW actually addresses One Demand.

    He already did.

    But it appears from my perspective that it is also possible that he does take it seriously and is avoiding addressing it because he prefers be able to make the argument that citizens have no other choice than to vote for the Democrats.

    And what problem could you, CW or anyone possibly have with people that were not going to vote in 2018 participating in One Demand instead of staying home and wasting their vote?

    You seem to have fallen victim to your own repetitive bullshit, Don, but more pathetic than that is that you appear to believe that others on this blog are as invested as you when they're simply not.

    Should people only be encouraged to vote if they are going to vote for Democrats or Republicans?

    Every American should be encouraged to vote regardless for whom they choose to vote, and every American should be encouraged to contribute to the candidates and causes they deem worthy whether or not Don Harris likes the amount they choose to contribute.

    Now bugger off, Don, your own blog is sorely in need of your brave input and rapt attention. :)

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Interesting suggestion made tonight that the defenders of Trump are employing the "OJ Defense", that is, to keep the jury (and the public) focused on the techniques and biases of the investigators rather than on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

    Rachel asked a question last night that bears repeating: why are Republican committee chairmen who are clearly allied with Trump being allowed to see the names of undercover sources right in the middle of an on-going federal investigation, against all precedent and standard practice, especially since they know that to do so 'burns' that source permanently, perhaps allowing Trump defenders to preemptively undermine that source if (his or her) testimony is ever needed?

    Perhaps that source's information wasn't all that helpful and they reason that it was a one-off use of that source anyway, so why not give the GOP goon squad a big fat bone to chew on for awhile.

    It's one explanation for an otherwise odd and ill-advised capitulation by the Justice Department.

  17. [17] 
    goode trickle wrote:


    Are you really sure you want CW to write about one demand?

    Would he not be obligated to point out the multiple flaws with your website?

    Putting aside JL's standard for publication by CW, the even lower standard would be having a current website to begin with... It does not inspire to go some place to read about your movement only to have to make substitutions for the year.

    It is not that hard to take your source code and do a find and replace in word of all things and upload the revised copy. you have been doing the website update for a really, really long time now.

    Perhaps taking 25% of your time spent here and dedicating it to putting fresh information and "news" up on your site might also help.

    Fun fact, according to Alexa your site ranks 18,012,373 in the world. You don't even get enough monthly traffic to cause a blip in the tracking data.

    Politics, Movements, and Political punditry reputations are not a "talk about me and I will build it" kind of thing. Go out and put some effort into your own movement and then perhaps CW will talk about you... even if he still doesn't want to talk about you at least your whining about his lack of wanting to talk about it would be justified. As it stands now it is not...

  18. [18] 
    goode trickle wrote:
  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i realize you see a similarity between your own questions and those of senator kamala harris. however, there are a few key differences between the questioning engaged in by kamala harris and yourself:

    1. she was refusing to accept an intentionally evasive answer, you are refusing to accept an answer that indicates genuine disinterest.

    2. she was asking on behalf of the forty million residents of california, whom she represents. you were asking on behalf of yourself, your idea, and perhaps the ten friends and family members who have signed up on your website.

    3. she was asking in the context of a public hearing, after which she was obliged to vote, based on the answers to her questions, to confirm or deny a presidential appointment to the federal government. you were asking in the comments section of a journalist's blog.

    4. she was asking with some political leverage and public support behind her. you have been asking with very little of either in your corner.

    maybe someday soon you'll have thousands or even millions of members and make your dream a reality. but before any serious journalist takes you and one demand seriously, you need to demonstrate in the real world that your organization (not bernie sanders, not ralph nader, not cynthia nixon, you) can get a significant part of the way there without their assistance.

    and sure, CW has indicated that he'll tolerate your incessant kvetching and solicitation, but it seems to me like a gigantic waste of your time and effort.


  20. [20] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Balthazar--I wasn't being entirely serious, just cynical, going on the assumption that any dream war will do.

  21. [21] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Re [24] The word dream should have a line through it--it was there in the preview. Any war will do.

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Total lack of comprehension unworthy of detailed response.

    You're fooling no one but yourself alone, Don, if you buy into the ridiculous fantasy that your utter nonsensical repetitive bullshit is the least bit complicated, but you couldn't swing a cat on this blog without hitting a commenter who didn't agree that your verbal diarrhea was "unworthy of detailed response." *LOL*

  23. [23] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    I suspect Don has basically given up on One Demand and it has become merely a vehicle for a twisted ego trip to try and get Chris to acknowledge him. I told him what's wrong with linking between his old url and current one a month ago but the link in his name is still dead even though it's a 20 second fix at best. Then try to search for One Demand on google. His site is not findable unless you know the .suffix. Burried in all the On Demand tv links, One Demand Computer Support and IT Help comes up as well as His One Demand - The Walrus but no political site way past it's best buy date in the first 20 pages of results...

  24. [24] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Actually that's not true, there are links to news stories about the One Demand of Occupy Wall street. So google does find political links way past their best buy dates, just not Don's...

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i had a comment swallowed up by the filters, and probably just as well. the main idea is that in order to convince people that your idea is worth discussing, you need to stay positive and do a better job of marketing. that part is your responsibility, not everybody else's, and certainly not CW's.

    the one million figure was arbitrary, maybe just start with a few thousand, but numbers do matter, because they prove that people are (or aren't) interested. if you search for advice on successful marketing, two of the most common suggestions are exactly what CW and bashi mentioned, do a regular blog/podcast, and keep a well-maintained website. also prominent are using social media and finding a receptive audience. browbeating a non-receptive audience will get you nowhere. so, take our advice or don't, but whatever the tone, be aware that for the most part it's intended to be helpful. if you don't take it to heart, you've only yourself to blame for the results.


  26. [26] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
  27. [27] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    the rest of us don't think you're being very realistic at all about your idea's chances of success. yes, if you can convince 50-75 million people to vote based on your idea, it might work. but getting to that number requires a coherent strategy for winning followers. CW should discuss what he wants to discuss. he has made it clear that he's not interested in your organization, and doesn't consider it important enough to spend a column commenting on. this is his blog, and that's his decision. if you want him to change his mind about you, the way to do it is by marketing your idea elsewhere and gathering enough followers so you can't be ignored. currently you can be ignored and are being ignored.

    7,542,753 people voted for Kamala Harris.
    0 people voted for Don Harris.

    that's why presidential nominees can not ignore her questions, and anybody who feels like it can ignore yours.


  28. [28] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i strongly disagree - support for an idea has a lot to do with its content. if people don't support an idea, perhaps something in the content is lacking. if something in the content is not lacking, perhaps it's something in the marketing that is lacking. if something in the marketing is lacking, that's the responsibility of the idea's supporters to fix, not the responsibility of everyone else to overlook.

    As to CW's comments, he did not mis- or in any other way represent your idea, he simply said he wasn't all that interested in it, and advised you on better ways to market it so people eventually would be interested. he's actually been incredibly consistent in that stance, which is why you haven't yet been banned from this site for trolling the blog's owner and soliciting its members.

    good luck in your endeavors, and i really do hope you get your act together and build one demand into something worth supporting.


  29. [29] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i've read all of CW's comments and did not encounter anything factually inaccurate. if you can cite and provide the permalink to whatever it is you're talking about, and explain what specific statement of fact you think is untrue, i'll consider it. otherwise, your argument looks a lot like the "no true scotsman" fallacy.

    also, today's thread is about the war of 1812, and is not even remotely related to campaign finance. kindly refrain from any further comments there.


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