As far as we knew, the President was getting along just fine with the Supreme Leader from North Korea. Of course there was all that drama before between the two, with the President promising in August 2017 to bury North Korea under a “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and the Supreme Leader firing back two days later with a threat to chuck a few rockets over Japan at Guam (an island which America has used like a floating military base ever since it won it in a war with Spain). The President was still roasting the Supreme Leader at the end of that year, calling him “Little Rocket Man” (his caps) in a tweet, one of almost 40 thousand sent out in the President’s Twitter lifetime.
But when the President met up with the Supreme Leader in Singapore last June, they really seemed to vibe. The whole time they held hands, smiled at each other, and went around taking pictures together. “It’s been an honor to be with you,” the President told the Supreme Leader after the two of them signed a promise to hook up again later. The President even said he’d invite the Supreme Leader over to the White House, presumably for dinner and more hand-holding.
There was no reason to think things wouldn’t be any different this second time around, when the President flew all the way over to Vietnam to see the Supreme Leader. They and everyone in their entourages stayed at the Métropole in Hanoi, this classy French-colonial hotel where Charlie Chaplin once stayed. They sat side by side at dinner on Wednesday and beamed at each other. Everybody was gearing up for their signing-ceremony lunch the next day, where they would be served “a delicate meal of foie gras, snowfish and candied ginseng, prepared by North Korean and Western chefs.”
On Thursday the lunch table, six seats long on both sides, was set. But then, just as they were settling into their budding relationship, the President, as if on cue, got pissed off and left.
“We didn’t get all the way,” the President said later, calm again but still frowning. “We asked him to do more, he was unprepared to [do] that.”
Apparently the Supreme Leader was willing to give up his nuclear bomb-making factory just north of Pyongyang in exchange for the President stripping all his sanctions against North Korea. But the President had heard there might be another nuclear site, so he wanted that one, too.
Then there’s the people in dictatorless South Korea, who say the President’s two foreign policy goons, State Secretary Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, who were also at the fancy lunch, pushed the President to ask for the Supreme Leader’s biological and chemical weapons, too. The Supreme Leader resisted him, so the President, being Mr. My-Way-or-the-Highway, left.
The President shouldn’t worry though. There are other fish in the sea—and some he doesn’t even have to fly all the way to Asia for.
Take Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, for example. (The President and his crew call Maduro a dictator, but most Venezuelans call Maduro “el Presidente.” Funny enough, the President just started his new Venezuelan interest Juan Guaidó “the interim president of Venezuela”; the President even has over 50 other countries doing it, too!)
Anyway, take Maduro. He says he wants to meet with the President to see if they can’t squash their beef, which basically springs from the President being a billionaire from Manhattan and Maduro being a union rep from Caracas—that, and that Maduro’s country is oil-rich and socialist, and the President’s country is capitalist and oil-thirsty. Plus Bolton and Pompeo don’t like Maduro either, so who knows what they’ve been whispering in the President’s ears. All we do know is that the the President went so far as to put the Vice President in charge of a pro-business posse down in South America called the Lima Group, part of those 50 countries that nod with whatever the President says. Only they stop at the President’s suggesting they send soldiers into Venezuela to take the oil—on that, they say, America’s on her own.
Maduro may not be a Kim Jong-un, or even a Benjamin Netanyahu (whom the President thinks is “tough,” “smart” and “strong”) or a Mohammed bin Salman (whom Trump says is “very strongly in power”) —and Maduro’s people may be calling him “President” instead of Supreme Leader, or “Crown Prince” (like M.B.S.)— but at least he isn’t itching to toss an intermediate-range ballistic missile at somebody. So there is no good reason why the President shouldn’t just sit down with Maduro and hash things out over a couple arepas.
They don’t even have to hold hands.