"Shields and Charen on North Korea peace prospects, Ronny Jackson VA vetting" PBS NewsHour 4/27/2018
SUMMARY: Syndicated columnists Mark Shields and Mona Charen join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the historic summit between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit, Dr. Ronny Jackson’s decision to withdraw as the Veterans Affairs nominee, and controversy surrounding Mick Mulvaney’s comments about lobbyists.
Judy Woodruff (NewsHour): This week in Washington has been consumed by talks of deals, a possible peace deal for the Korean Peninsula, and discussions with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal.
That brings us to the analysis of Shields and Charen. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and syndicated columnist Mona Charen. David Brooks is away.
And we welcome both of you here on this Friday.
So, we have had this backdrop of a cliffhanger of a relationship between the United States and North Korea. Mark, a lot of tough language shared. But then, this week, we see this remarkable yesterday coming together — early this morning, coming together at the border, the North and South Korean leader.
How do you read this, and how do you see President Trump’s role in it?
Mark Shields, syndicated columnist: I read it quite superficially, because, unlike our earlier scholars and analysts, I’m not an authority on Korean politics.
But just looking at it politically, it’s a dramatic improvement. Just a few months ago, we were talking about the possibility of a million people being killed on the Korean Peninsula in a war which people feared in some cases was only weeks away.
And here we are talking about blood relatives reaching across the 38th Parallel, reconnecting, reconciliation between North and South, ending formally 65 years of war between the two.
And so you ask about President Trump. You know, I think you have to say that, while his unorthodoxy, his inflammatory rhetoric, his unpredictability has been in many cases an impediment to thoughtful and positive relations, actually, here it may have worked. It may be working.
This is a positive development, an encouraging development. It’s not the resolution, but I think this is one case where Donald Trump’s style may have worked for positive results.
Judy Woodruff: And we will see what happens, Mona, but at this point, what do you see?
Mona Charen, syndicated columnist: Well, the optics, as we would put it in Washington, were terrific, stepping across the barrier, both of them and so forth, and making a lot of promises.
But I think skepticism, deep skepticism is in order. Look, what does Kim Jong-un want? He wants to remain in power. Nuclear weapons are the key to — they’re his insurance policy. And he has devoted tremendous effort and tremendous expense to obtain them.
The idea that he would now wake up one morning and say, you know, forget all that, I actually want to live in peace and I want to denuclearize. And, by the way, as your previous guests said, a lot of dispute about what that means to the two different parties.
But we have seen over the years the North Koreans. The Kim family has made promises, has made overtures, have promised even to give up their quest for nuclear weapons. And they have never done it. They constantly renege.
So, I’m deeply skeptical that anything has really changed, except the optics.
Judy Woodruff: And so meantime, Mark, the nuclear deal that exists now between Iran and several other countries, including the U.S., President Trump keeps saying that he doesn’t like it, and there is every indication he’s going to pull out.
He’s met this week with the leader of — President of France, Emmanuel Macron, then just today with Chancellor Merkel of Germany. Does it look like the President is going to go through with this deal, and how do you see the President as diplomat this week?
Mark Shields: Well, just to respond to Mona’s point, all of that is true, the history of relations between North Korea and the rest of the world, the six-nation parlance, under four different American Presidents.
This is different. This raising the stakes by the part of the President himself.
Judy Woodruff: In Korea?
Mark Shields: In Korea.
And the reality — the reality is, Judy, that the per capita income in North Korea is $1,800. And it’s $33,200 in South Korea. And I think there is pressure there. I’m not saying that he’s the avenging angel of piece.
As far as keeping the word, and being trust and verify and skeptical, all of a sudden, the shoe is on the other foot. Are we — is our word reliable?
Judy Woodruff: With regard to the Iran…
Mark Shields: Iran. Are we going to keep our promise made just three short years ago? Are we going to pull out?
And right now, I think you would have to say the betting is that that’s what the President is going to do. As far as President Macron’s visit this week, I think, besides the heavy necking and the light petting that we saw in public between these two grown and married men in our liberalized area here, I don’t think there’s any question that he absolutely dazzled, and for home consumption and playing to positive reviews in Paris before the Congress.
And his message was unalloyed and direct and candid to the President about isolationism and its costs.
Judy Woodruff: A direct message to the Congress from Emmanuel Macron, Mona, but it doesn’t appear to have changed the President’s mind when it comes to this Iran nuclear deal.
Mona Charen: Yes.
It’s hard to understand the position that we should tear up the Iran deal. As somebody who was deeply opposed to the original deal, it just strikes me that once you have given away all the money, which is what we did — we gave them back their $100 million — we have lost all of our negotiating leverage.
How is it that we are going to get the Iranians to give up something more, when we have already given them what they were after? It seems to me that we don’t have the leverage we think we do with this — with the Iran deal.
Regarding Macron, I think he did the star turn this week. He rally did, because he managed Trump. He flattered him. He got along with Trump and all of that, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. And then, when he spoke to Congress, he sounded like the leader of the Western world.
He was talking about the importance of our obligations and freedom and that we shouldn’t retreat into nationalism and protectionism. I thought it was a real star turn. And I thought he did himself a lot of good.
Mark Shields: Let me just agree that I hadn’t heard a President with such command of the English language speak to Congress since Barack Obama.
Mark Shields: And I just — I was very impressed by Macron’s performance.