The Bubble: How would conservatives have reacted to Obama meeting with Kim, liberals ask


Each week, USA TODAY’s OnPolitics blog takes a look at how media from the left and the right reacted to a political news story, giving liberals and conservatives a peek into the other’s media bubble.

This week, commentators debated the significance of President Donald Trump’s historic meeting with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Liberals — and many conservatives — said the meeting resulted in nothing of any substance, with some saying it was just a giant photo op and others saying China was the real winner out of the meeting. 

Some conservatives praised Trump for accomplishing what no other president did — or was willing to do. 

Last week: By undoing Obama accomplishments, Trump let economy soar, conservatives say

Liberal bubble: How would Republicans have reacted to Obama doing the same thing? 

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reflected on how conservatives would likely have reacted if, when he was president, Barack Obama had, “sat down with a dictator whose regime had killed hundreds of thousands of people,” “set no specific preconditions for the meeting and secured no commitment on human rights nor any firm promise to denuclearize,” and “praised the dictator in lavish terms.” 

“But we don’t have to wonder what the reaction would have been to Obama doing such things, because we know what happened when he even floated the idea,” Milbank said. What happened was a crescendo of conservative criticism of Obama.

“Republicans are blithely hypocritical in praising Trump for doing the same thing they blasted Obama for suggesting, but at least some Democrats retain enough integrity not to dismiss diplomacy just because it is being attempted by their opponent,” he said. 

OnPolitics Today: Eliminate North Korea’s threat? That was easy (apparently)

Conservative bubble: Trump accomplished more than Clinton, Bush and Obama combined

With his summit with Kim, Trump has “once again done something astounding and unpredictable,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich wrote for Fox News Opinion. But we should be used to Trump surprising us, Gingrich said. 

Trump’s “decisiveness and willingness to take risks repudiates a deep elite diplomatic tradition of slow, cautious work by subordinates to gradually develop an agenda,” and that boldness could change history, he said.

“President Trump has already accomplished more with North Korea than Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama combined,” Gingrich wrote. “And this is just the beginning.”

Our view: Trump-Kim summit is theater that’s worth playing out

Liberal bubble: ‘A singularly absurd spectacle’

“Yes, it is better to talk than to rattle plutonium at each other,” said Charles Pierce in Esquire. But for Pierce, the summit “was a singularly absurd spectacle” that resulted in “an anomalous document that doesn’t really commit anyone to anything.” 

“There is really nothing to comment upon, except for the fact that an American president met a leader of North Korea for the first time,” Piece said. “There’s no reason for them to trust each other, and no reason for the rest of us to trust either of them.

“And, besides, no country in the history of the world willingly has given up all its nuclear weapons once it had them. I am skeptical that North Korea under its present leadership is going to be the first one to do so.” 

More: Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un summit was bluster and balloons

Conservative bubble: Biggest winner at the summit was China 

“While China worried that its interests might get short-shrift in the Trump-Kim summit, the meeting unexpectedly proved favorable to Beijing,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page.

That’s because the summit’s “vaguely worded agreement” opens a window for China to lobby for a direct role in the negotiations, China experts told Page. They also said Trump’s announcement that he would stop “war games” with South Korea likely emboldened Chinese leaders. 

Page explained that Beijing wants “to prevent the emergence of a unified, democratic and U.S.-allied Korea and would like to see a reduced American military presence in the South.”

More: Trump blasts media as America’s ‘biggest enemy’ for North Korea coverage

Liberal bubble: A giant Singapore photo op

“It’s terrifying that Donald Trump is president in this moment,” said Salon’s Heather Digby Parton. “The president claimed he did all the negotiating himself. That isn’t surprising, since this was actually a step backwards from earlier agreements.” 

“Trump basically achieved nothing new,” she said. “It was an elaborate photo-op. As usual, the self-congratulatory press conference he gave after the summit was downright delusional.”

But, “considering all those comments he made during the campaign, it could have been much worse,” she added. 

More: Trump saluted a North Korean general, state media shows, an unusual act of respect

Conservative bubble: At least Trump is trying 

Trump’s meeting with Kim was “extraordinary” and “an encounter that eluded every American president from Eisenhower to Obama,” wrote Deroy Murdock in the National Review. And although it remains to be seen if anything will come of the summit, at least Trump is “trying to prevent Pyongyang’s missiles from blossoming into mushroom clouds over American soil.” 

Nonetheless, Trump’s critics, “rather than offer constructive criticism, credible alternatives, or new ideas, they attack Trump in the silliest ways,” Murdock said. 

If President Trump’s groundbreaking work this week wins him the Nobel Peace Prize, have no fear. Democrats and their media bodyguards will attack the medal for being too shiny, not shiny enough, or made of gold rather than platinum — whatever it takes to guarantee that Donald J. Trump always has a bad day.

More: While Donald Trump declares a summit victory, others say not so fast

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