Fresh off a tour of North Korea, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is offering details of his visit — including his unprecedented opportunity to pal around with the communist regime's mysterious young leader, Kim Jong Un. Rodman, a tattooed bad-boy celebrity known as The Worm, is the first American to meet the Hermit Kingdom's new dictator, son of the late Kim Jong Il. Rodman attended a basketball game with Kim. Then the new buddies went ice skating, visited an aquarium, and went to dinner.
In his first interview after the trip, Rodman said that Kim, despite his bellicose rhetoric toward the U.S., has a message for President Obama. "He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him. He said, 'If you can, Dennis — I don't want [to] do war. I don't want to do war.' He said that to me," Rodman told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on This Week. "[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, 'Obama loves basketball.' Let's start there."
Stephanopoulos asked Rodman whether during the budding of his bromance he got any concrete indication that Kim wanted to drop the frightening rhetoric and reset his relationship with the U.S., noting that in the past Kim has said he would destroy the United States. "Well," Rodman says, "I think that's coming from his father." Rodman has also described Kim as "awesome," "honest," and "humble" — calling him a "28-year-old kid" who wants to make a change.
One former top U.S. diplomat noted that, as bizarre as Rodman's trip was, it still provided the most detailed picture Americans have of one of the world's most enigmatic and dangerous leaders. "There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more, personally, about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman," says Stephen Ganyard, a retired fighter pilot and former State Department official. "And that, in itself, is scary."
The consensus among commentators is that it is indeed frightening to contemplate the fact that Rodman really did get access to Kim that no American spy or diplomat ever has. "But it's not as bizarre as the interview itself," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "Stephanopoulos can barely believe Rodman's apologetics for the leader of the world's most oppressive regime, based entirely, it seems, on the new Dear Leader's love of… basketball."
[Stephanopoulos] offered a number of incredulous questions to Rodman, such as pointing out that Kim starves millions of people and puts people in prison camps. When Rodman suggests that it’s no different than what we do here, Stephanopoulos asks, "We put people in prison camps here?" At the end of the interview, Stephanopoulos hands Rodman a report from Human Rights Watch and tells him to deliver it to his newfound "friend" the next time he visits North Korea. While Stephanopoulos never quite gets around to explicitly saying "You're a moron," the subtext is pretty clear. [Hot Air]
Rodman is a "freakshow," says Katie Pavlich at Townhall. His frivolous, publicity-seeking visit with a "newly minted dictator" was "outrageous and ridiculous," and "should be condemned by Democrats, Republicans, and the press." Stephanopoulos did hit Rodman with some tough questions, but after their chat he tweeted that he had "no hate" for the former Chicago Bulls star. Perhaps, given North Korea's recent nuclear test and its plan to launch a new intermediate-range ballistic missile any day now, Stephanopoulos could have been just a tad more tough.
It's easy to dismiss Rodman's account as a joke, but should we? "Like it or not, Rodman went to North Korea and became pals with Kim," says Mike Imrem at suburban Chicago's Daily Herald, "and maybe the rest of us better try to make the best of this breach of sanity." Yes, it's absurd. Yes, the fact that the suggestion comes from Dennis Rodman makes it even crazier. But beer diplomacy can work. Why not basketball diplomacy?
Yes, let's start there. Nothing else has persuaded Kim to quit testing nuclear weapons so we might as well explore this common ground: Kim Jong Un and Barack Obama are Bulls fans. Maybe they could meet without rattling sabers at anyone but the Miami Heat. [Daily Herald]