Op-ed: The art of the hustle

This is not the first time I’ve quoted the ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s book, but I often have been curious about what exactly he was trying to convey with “The Art of the Deal.” Well, maybe not “often.” But, a couple of times I’ve wondered what the catchy and grandiose title meant in the best-seller (which is itself a puzzler). It contains nothing more than rudimentary, self-evident advice on negotiations. To wit: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.” Talk about Captain Obvious.

Yet now you have Donald Trump violating even that fundamental rule of bargaining. It didn’t appear in his text, but what Trump apparently has meant all along was that “The Art of the Deal” is pretending to make a deal because he is so desperate to look like he made one.

In Singapore, Kim Jong Un didn’t give up anything, unless we include the fact that he showed up, shook hands and smiled a lot with President Trump. But wait, that was a win for Kim, because his status in the world as a dangerous punk was hugely elevated by the fact that he met as an equal with a sitting president of the United States. Not only did Trump show up, shake hands and smile a lot with Kim, POTUS validated the ruthless dictator and his vicious state that imprisons and murders anyone who deviates from being an obedient automaton — more than 100,000, by most credible estimates, are held in cruel gulags, where they are starved, beaten or raped.

Human rights is not the president’s thing, as we’ve discovered, and by his own account, the subject barely came up in their talks. Afterward he gushed to the Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things and that’s why he’s doing this.”

Greta did her job: “But he’s starved them. He’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?”

Trump: “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it. But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago, because that’s really when this whole thing started.”

As for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is the issue that brought them to this dance, it was all Trump quid and no pro quo from Kim. True, they did sign a joint declaration where Kim Jong Un made the same vague promises to denuclearize his nation that have been made and broken numerous times. In return, he got from Trump a pledge to end the joint military exercises with South Korea that the North has always called a “provocation.” In fact, don’t you know that the president parroted Chairman Kim’s propaganda and called them “provocative.” He then promised to end them, which, by the way, surprised the daylights out of the South Koreans as well as the Pentagon.

As for denuclearization, Trump was already declaring that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” That must have thrilled them back in Pyongyang, where Kim was probably celebrating putting one over on the “Dotard.”

As for President Trump, he’ll have to find another nation and its leader to ostracize. Come to think of it, he already has one, Justin Trudeau’s Canada, and it’s not even far away. Remember the song from the 1999 “South Park” movie called “Blame Canada”? If that’s before your time, look it up on your search engine. Obviously, Donald Trump has taken it to heart. He doesn’t realize it was a parody.

Meanwhile, that cheesy video he ordered made which depicted Kim Jong Un as man of the people should have been a parody too, but it was serious. What we’ve learned from all this is that the art of any Donald Trump deal includes the art of propaganda.

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