As Star Trek fans know, “only Nixon could go to China.” While perhaps not true, this saying does have some merit: Nixon embraced the anti-communist narrative and his credentials in this area were seen as impeccable. As such, he could go to China without any criticism or suggestion that he was being weak on communism or that he might act in ways contrary to American interests.
When Obama was president, he was regarded by the right as weak–despite the fact that his assassination drones had racked up an impressive body count and that he had presided over the assassination of Bin Laden. As such, Obama was not in a very good position to engage in deals with North Korea. Also, the calm and bluster-free Obama operated in a rational way that did not fit well with the approach of North Korea–a nation whose leader is well-known for his love of Dennis Rodman.
While Trump seemed to be intent on starting things up with “little rocket man”, this blustering and insulting mixed with odd praise seems to have touched the soul of Kim Jong-un. While initially seeming to puff up for a fight, North Korea suddenly engaged constructively with South Korea for the Olympics, released American hostages and has agreed to an historical summit. While Trump has made some odd remarks about TV ratings, he certainly deserves meaningful credit for this change. Trump, one might suspect, has just the right personality to deal with Kim Jong-un. While the verdict of history awaits for a time long after we will be dust and bones, it is not foolish to speculate that this will prove to be a critical turning point for the peninsula. If it turns out well, Trump should get his fair share of the credit and someday it might be said that “only Trump could go to North Korea.”
This is not to turn a blind eye to the possibility that North Korea is engaged in trying to con America’s self-proclaimed master of the deal. That said, dislike of Trump and distrust of Kim Jong-un should not be allowed to blind people to the positive possibilities here.