Given our hyperpartisan environment, when every policy is seemingly judged not by its prudence but by the political affiliation of its origination, something remarkable is happening. Democrats are not interfering with the Trump administration’s attempts to solve one of the world’s most vexing problems, a nuclear-armed North Korea led by a dictator whose intentions are difficult to decipher.
That’s as it should be. That’s not what happened when the Obama administration tried to make the Middle East a little more stable by reining in Iran’s efforts to become the world’s newest nuclear power. The GOP openly opposed the administration at every turn and took aggressive, unprecedented actions to blow up talks between the U.S., Iran and other major world powers. Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas even wrote an open letter to the Iranian regime essentially arguing no deal with the Obama administration could be trusted. The letter was signed by 47 Republican senators — including Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Their efforts didn’t stop there. The GOP also tried to impose new sanctions on Iran during the delicate negotiations. Republicans took the extraordinary step of inviting the leader of a foreign country, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, to speak before Congress — without telling President Barack Obama — to argue against the pending deal. That was in addition to a sustained effort to declare that any deal, no matter how well written, no matter the unprecedented levels of transparency, no matter that top nuclear experts agreed with what Obama was doing, could not work.
Now even the most hawkish Republicans are taking a wait-and-see attitude as Trump tries to corral North Korea. They have not vehemently opposed the talks even though North Korea just eight months ago said it wanted to reduce the U.S. mainland “into ashes and darkness” and that the U.S. should “be beaten to death as a stick is fit for a rabid dog.” Even Graham, who helped lead the charge against the Obama administration nuclear deal with Iran, says Trump would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize if talks with North Korea work.
We don’t yet know if those talks will be fruitful, despite powerful and symbolic steps, including Kim Jong Un becoming the first leader of North Korea to stand on South Korean soil. North Korea has also reportedly said it would be willing to give up its nuclear program if the U.S. pledged to not attack — though that seems less than encouraging given that the U.S. made that pledge in 2005 and the regime moved ahead with nuclear weapons development anyway.
We don’t yet know if it’s all just rhetoric, particularly because the U.S. definition of denuclearization has never been shared by North Korea. It could be just another in a series of head fakes.
But the Trump administration should be given space to find out. Democrats should continue to do what Republicans did not — put the country first, not politics.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE Charlotte Observer