Made For TV
July 1, 2019

In North Korea, the state-run KCNA news agency declared the whirlwind meeting between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump at the DMZ on Sunday an "amazing event" made possible by a "bold, brave decision" by the two leaders and the "unprecedented trust between the two countries" that has blossomed under Kim and Trump's relationship.

American reporters wondered what the U.S. got out of Trump legitimizing and praising an oppressive rogue nuclear regime that is still openly testing ballistic missies. "Why does Kim Jong Un deserve this moment?" Bloomberg News' Margaret Talev asked Trump at a press conference before the meeting. Trump complained that "only the fake news" says he hasn't made tremendous strides toward fixing the North Korea problem. Trump's visit to the DMZ and steps into North Korea were played extensively on cable news, and the news coverage often sounded like political theater review.

In 2017, Trump "secretly planned to walk right up to the North Korean border to show Kim Jong Un that America would stand up to his brutal regime," and "in 2019, Trump publicly implored Kim to meet him at that same border in order to smile, shake hands, and discuss the future the two countries could bring about together," says Politico's Anita Kumar. "It was a dramatic turnaround that showed how Trump, groomed in reality TV and the flashy New York real estate world, can use the same exact camera-friendly, symbolic location for completely different theatrical gestures."

"In classic Trumpian fashion, the nation's first reality-show president built up the suspense of his third meeting with Kim like a seasoned television producer," reports The Washington Post's Seung Min Kim. After the DMZ meeting, as Trump "watched Moon and Kim share an embrace, and Kim began returning to North Korea," she adds, "Trump couldn't help but clap — briefly, but excitedly — as the day wound to a close." Peter Weber

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