Before hopping aboard Air Force One to head back to the United States after his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump spent more than an hour(!) talking and taking questions from the assembled media. It was quite a performance.
I combed through the transcript – shout-outs to interns Jessie Yeung and Bani Sapra for compiling it! – and highlighted the most newsworthy, intriguing and just plain odd lines from the President. They’re below.
1. “We spent very intensive hours together, and I think most of you have received the signed document, or you will very shortly. It’s very comprehensive, it’s going to happen.”
The signed document, which you can see here, is full of generalities about what both countries plan to do but contains few specifics of how and when major changes – like denuclearization by the North Koreans – will happen. “Now that we’ve been given their statement it is far less than advertised,” tweeted NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “No new commitments. No timetable. No definitions. Glad they met but no breakthroughs.”
2. “We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time, under very strong, strong circumstance.”
What, exactly, is a “very strong, strong circumstance”? And is that a good thing or a bad one?
3. “But now we can all have hope that it will soon end. And it will. It will soon end.”
Trump is referring here to declaring an official end to the Korean War, which Kim very much wants. In two sentences, Trump goes from this might happen to this is definitely going to happen. Which, it may or it may not.
4. “The past does not have to define the future.”
“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” – William Faulkner
5. “This isn’t another administration that never got it started and therefore never got it done.”
Trump can never resist throwing a barb the way of his predecessors or touting his own historic accomplishments. Of course, in this situation he’s right: He made history on Tuesday as the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader.
6. “Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort, especially in this case.”
A very good line. Trust but verify, in poetry.
7. “It’s a very great moment in the history of the world.”
No one ever accused Trump of being understated!
8. “The media – this is a big gathering of media, I will say.”
REMINDER: Trump is always, always, always mindful of how he is being covered and by whom. For all his anti-media rhetoric, there has never been a president more addicted to the media and media attention than Trump.
9. “Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough – I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it – he ran it.”
Trump’s weird praise of Kim, including calling him “very talented,” reveals something of how Trump sees the world and how he understands leadership. For Trump, leadership is effective governance by any means necessary. As he has demonstrated in the past with his praise for Vladimir Putin as well as the leaders of Egypt and Turkey, Trump offers little outward concern for authoritarian tactics and human rights abuses – focusing instead on the loyalty these rulers inspire.
10. “Yeah, we’ll be verifying. It will be verified.”
The truth is that there is nothing concrete in the signed agreement about how the US will verify that North Korea is destroying its nuclear capability.
11. “As we do that, we’re going to have a lot of people there, and we’re going to be working with them on a lot of other things.”
a) lot of people
b) working on a lot of things
12. “Yeah, go ahead. Be nice. Be respectful.”
Trump’s comment to CNN’s Jim Acosta is a reminder that he thinks the media is under some sort of “nice” requirement. We aren’t. The job is to respectfully ask hard questions on behalf of the American people. “I’ll be very respectful, sir,” was Acosta’s pitch-perfect response to the President.
13. “In one case, they took billions of dollars – during the Clinton regime – took billions of dollars and nothing happened.”