According to Bob Schrum on tonight’s Hardball, today President Bush “announced the end of Dick Cheney’s dominance in foreign policy.”
The announcement was made in a presidential press conference in Chicago. After President Bush went on — and on — at some length about stuff nobody cares about or believes any more — like No Child Left Behind works real good and what the economy needs is more tax cuts — he took some questions from Chicago reporters. And the first question was about North Korea.
Q Mr. President, Japan has dropped the threat of sanctions from its proposed Security Council resolution about North Korea. Why was that necessary? And how do you punish or penalize a country that’s already among the poorest and most isolated in the world?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that the purpose of the U.N. Security Council resolution is to send a clear message to the leader of North Korea that the world condemns that which he did. Part of our strategy, as you know, has been to have others at the table; is to say as clearly as possible to the North Korean, get rid of your weapons and there’s a better way forward. In other words, there’s a choice for him to make. He can verifiably get rid of his weapons programs and stop testing rockets, and there’s a way forward for him to help his people.
I believe it’s best to make that choice clear to him with more than one voice, and that’s why we have the six-party talks. And now that he has defied China and Japan and South Korea and Russia and the United States — all of us said don’t fire that rocket. He not only fired one, he fired seven. Now that he made that defiance, it’s best for all of us to go to the U.N. Security Council and say loud and clear, here are some red lines. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing.
The problem with diplomacy, it takes a while to get something done. If you’re acting alone, you can move quickly. When you’re rallying world opinion and trying to come up with the right language at the United Nations to send a clear signal, it takes a while.
And so, yesterday, I was on the phone with — I think I mentioned this to the press conference yesterday — to Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin; the day before to President Roh and Prime Minister Koizumi. And Condi, by the way, was making the same calls out there to her counterparts, all aiming at saying, it’s your choice, Kim Jong-il, you’ve got the choice to make.
So we’ll see what happens at the U.N. Security Council. I talked to Condi this morning first thing, in anticipation of this question, and she feels good about the progress that can be made there.
No more Lone Ranger foreign policy. No more unilateral action. No more charging around the globe doing whatever we want. Now we’ve got to get the world to speak with one voice; we’ve got to rely on diplomacy, because we have no other bleeping options.
Back on Hardball, Schrum and Norah O’Donnell said that we don’t have a credible threat of force, and sanctions are not supported by the UN security council, so all we’ve got left is diplomacy. But as Schrum also said, “It was time for diplomacy six years ago.”
Somebody — I think it was O’Donnell — said that she’d never heard Bush use the word diplomacy as often as he used it today.
But Bob Schrum also said, “He can’t talk his way out of the problems he has right now.”
The problem isn’t just that Bush should have started diplomacy six years ago. It was that shortly after he became President in 2001 he trashed years of diplomacy that had gone on before. And he did this because he is an asshole.
Go here for some background on how badly Dubya bleeped up North Korea:
So here’s where we stood when Bush II became President: Kim Jong Il was (and remains) a genuinely horrible leader whose people were starving, and western intelligence agencies at least suspected he was processing uranium. But relations with South Korea were improving, the IAEA was still inspecting, and the plutonium processors were still sealed.
But then there was Bush.
Kim Dae Jung came to Washington in March 2001 to pay respects to the new U.S. President Bush and ask for his support for the Sunshine Policy. And what happened?
Bush dissed him, that’s what. The arrogant little twerp snubbed a Nobel Prize winner and friend to America. And when word of the snub reached North Korea, the “Sunshine Policy” died.
The late, great Mary McGrory wrote:
We should perhaps remember that President Bush has never liked talking to Koreans. His first overseas visitor was the estimable Kim Dae Jung, whom Bush snubbed.
Bush, as he was eager to demonstrate, was not a fan. Kim’s sin? He was instituting a sunshine policy with the North, ending a half-century of estrangement. Bush, who looked upon North Korea as the most potent argument for his obsession to build a national missile defense, saw Kim, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as nothing but trouble. He sent him home humiliated and empty-handed. [McGrory, “Bush’s Moonshine Policy,” The Washington Post, December 29, 2002; emphasis added].
As a reaction to Bush’s unexpected hard-line stance, North Korea cancelled scheduled reconciliation talks with South Korea.
And it was Bush (and Condi) screwups that got Kim Jong Il back into the plutonium processing business, as explained here. Note that the Republican Noise Machine persuaded much of the press and public that Kim Jong Il had broken the 1994 agreement made with the Clinton Administration to stop processing plutonium. But in fact Kim Jong Il had stopped processing plutonium. The Bushies raised a stink about North Korea processing uranium, which was a whole ‘nother matter and not nearly as much of a concern as processing plutonium, as explained here. And as I explained here, in 2002 Condi explained that North Korea is just so much more manageable than Iraq, and if we just stand up to them they’ll mind us like housebroken puppies. Two years later, North Korea announced it had nuclear weapons. Brilliant.
Click here for the entire “Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes” archive.