May 23, 2018

You may remember Robert Kelly from the viral video where his children came into the room behind him with hilarious results. Fortunately he's still an analyst in South Korea providing serious commentary on how Trump is screwing everything up.

Turns out "We'll see what happens" isn't leadership or diplomacy.

From last night's Last Word:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: And now Donald Trump is no longer quite so sure that he's going to be a front-runner for the Nobel peace prize by denuclearizing North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP (CLIP): There is a chance that it will work out. There is a chance, a very substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waste a lot of time, and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So there is a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's okay. That doesn't mean that it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12th. But there is a good chance that we'll have the meeting.

O'DONNELL: Got that? Was that clear? Okay. "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that the summit has been thrown into doubt by President Trump's new national security adviser John Bolton. When John Bolton appeared on television three weeks ago and said, the trump administration thought the Libya model of denuclearization was the ideal for North Korea. Since that ended in the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, it is not surprising that Kim Jong-un doesn't see it as a reasonable objective for himself. Joining our discussion now, Robert Kelly, a professor of political science and diplomacy at Pusan University in South Korea. Professor, where do you believe the summit stands at this point? Is it likely to happen?

PROFESSOR ROBERT KELLY: I still think it is, but it's a lot closer to 50% than I think it was a few days ago because it's pretty clear now that the president and Kim Jong-un are really, really far apart on nuclear weapons, and Moon has not been able to bridge that. I still think there are high incentives for both of them to have this thing. I think Donald Trump would like the pageantry and the television and a chance to have a win to market at home because of all the scandals and stuff like that. But it's a lot closer to failure than a few days ago.

O'DONNELL: And is President Moon supportive of the summit no matter what the agenda is?

KELLY: It seems like it. The Moon administration has been really pushing this hard. Thing is a sense of momentum here, that they got the ball rolling, especially after last year. Last year, the war threats of last year really scared the South Korean population a lot. I think the Moon people want to keep this going. They want to tie down Donald Trump to a diplomatic track, and that's why they're pushing this so hard, yes.

O'DONNELL: And the president today refused to answer the question about whether or not he has actually spoken directly to Kim Jong-un. Is there any -- is there any sense in South Korea at this point whether there has been direct communication from President Trump to Kim?

KELLY: Yeah, that's actually a really good question. I don't know. There are rumors all over the place. My sense is that maybe there is something brief because of the way the president has spoken. We know the president likes the sort of drama of this kind of stuff. But that would be extraordinary, right? No American president has ever done that before. But Trump likes that sort of thing, I suppose.

O'DONNELL: President Trump has already gone farther than any other American president certainly in stepping toward North Korea in recognizing and saying very, very favorable things about the North Korean leader, the likes of which we've never heard from an American president.

KELLY: Yeah, it's kind of curious, actually, what the president has done. One of the things people are worried about in the analyst community, especially among hawks if you will, is the president gave Kim the summit without really getting anything in return for it. Meeting the American president is, if you're a Korean dictator, it proves North Korea is a real state, it's independent, it's a real country and not sort of a failed socialist cul-de-sac. This is why no American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Trump gave that up for nothing with which in my opinion was a huge error.

O'DONNELL: Professor Kelly from South Korea, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

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