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Observations across Idaho

frazier

The GUARDIAN has returned to duty and unfortunately we don’t have a lot of cheery news to report after covering 1300 miles of Idaho, Yellowstone, and vicinity.

Great time spent with 14-year-old grandson and a chance to learn the addictive qualities of those “smart” phones. Amazing how fast and readily available information can be obtained. Sad to see how much of the info is dispersed.

With no particular judgements and full understanding of cultural differences, geographic challenges, and generational voids, I will offer the following observations for all to comment upon.

–When you have lived ONLY in metro Hillsborough County, Florida where the population is the same as the entire state of Idaho it is understandable how awkward it is to pee in the aspen grove along Highway 20.

–The significance of Arco being the first town in the world to have nuclear power is lost after 65 years.

–The gigantic trout at Big Spring near Island Park are gone! Don’t know if the nearby massive construction projects have had any impact, but the world famous fishery has attracted a lot of people and money to Fremont County.

–Yellowstone is overrun with Asian tourists. At one hotel breakfast buffet we observed a shoving match when an Asian guest hijacked an entire tray of scrambled eggs for his table. Those not in tour groups and renting autos were obvious due to their lack of driving skills.

–Questions as simple as, “what do you want to study in school,” were answered after consulting the Smart Phone for salary surveys. (neurologists earn $600,000 a year and electrical engineering profs bring in $90,000).

–Freeway drivers are totally out of control, mean, aggressive, and a danger to everyone. We were just ahead of fatality crashes on both I-15 and I-84. At the time we commented that death was inevitable with such behavior.

–Idaho is still a vast “Gem” with scenic vistas and good people. Upper Mesa Falls on Henrys Fork of the Snake is spectacular, Craters of the Moon is unique, but barren. The Swan Falls Canyon (Birds of Prey) is an under appreciated Ada County natural attraction

–Promontory Point in Utah is amazingly close to Idaho and they reenact the Golden Spike ceremony daily in the summer to commemorate the Transcontinental Railroad which opened the West to settlement. Orbital ATK rocket manufacturing (formerly Thiokol) is very near the Golden Spike site.
 

Shorter name, larger reach

stapiluslogo1

The newspaper at Nampa changed its name last week, from the Idaho Press-Tribune to the Idaho Press.

Usually, business name changes like this resonate little with me. This one did, for one small reason a little sad, and another larger reason decidedly cheerful.

A few weeks from now will mark 42 years since I first went to work at a daily newspaper. That happened, in the summer of 1976, at the Caldwell paper, called the News Tribune. Some years earlier it had been a fully independent newspaper. By the time I arrived it was closely linked by ownership and otherwise to the Idaho Free Press at Nampa, where the printing press, most of the business offices and the larger share of the staff at the two papers were located. But it still had its own masthead, its own identity, and a substantial office with news, advertising, circulation and other staff in downtown Caldwell. (My job there was to cover county government, courts, local schools and sundry other areas.)

Tightly tied as it was to Nampa, the local News-Tribune did help give Caldwell a specific local identity, and it had a high profile in the community. Its merger into the larger Nampa operation - into what was re-named the Idaho Press-Tribune - and closure of the Caldwell office, in the early 80s, seemed like a diminishment at Caldwell, where the downtown was struggling. At the same time, the result was a larger unified operation.

Back then, I thought the Nampa and Caldwell papers should make a play for the western part of Ada County, picking up more circulation and expanding news and advertising operations in the fast-growing suburban areas. There wasn’t a lot of interest then, maybe in part because growth in the 80s was mostly slower, and the Idaho Statesman at Boise, with much larger regional staff operations, seemed to have a clear hold on the area.

Bringing us to the changes happening now, signified by the dropping of “Tribune” from the newspaper’s name. That change saddens me a bit, cutting the last tie to the old Caldwell paper.

But it’s also an indicator of greater breadth and more ambition. And that’s an encouraging thing.

The owners of the Nampa newspaper have in recent years swept up local news operations in Meridian, Emmett and Kuna, and have been pressing into the western Ada County area. The paper now offers home delivery across Ada County, which it never did before. It has expanded its news gathering in Boise, most notably hiring the veteran (and excellent) state government reporter Betsy Russell away from the Spokane Spokesman-Review. All of that expansion is in part justified because the Idaho Press’ owners also own the papers in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Rexburg, so the costs of state-level coverage can be shared.

But the local expansion has some larger significance.

It comes at a time when newspapers all over the country are retracting and retrenching, becoming shadows of their former selves. Here we have a case - rare but not unheard of in these days - of expansion and growth, and more news rather than less for local readers.

This isn’t inevitable. Other newspapers in Idaho are still maintaining strong news operations. Believe it or not, there’s still a demand for news outside Washington and New York. And a need.

But how that need is filled, is shifting.
 

It’s torture

richardson

When I was a little girl growing up in the Orchards of Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1950s, it was a wonderful adventure to take the bus downtown with my mom, something we did perhaps once a month. I remember passing under the canopy of trees on Eleventh Avenue, the thrill I got from pulling the string that signaled the driver that ours was the next stop and the joy of sitting at the soda fountain inside Newberry's on Main Street enjoying a burger and shake.

But one day when I was four, the adventure turned into a nightmare.

Somehow, I had gotten separated from my mom. I remember the shock of suddenly realizing she was nowhere near. I ran frantically from aisle to aisle, the store suddenly becoming a terrifying maze, my heart pounding. I called out loudly, repeatedly, urgently, "Mama! Mama! Where are you, Mama?!" I was desperately frightened and remembered thinking, "What if I can't find her? What if I never see her again?"

Maybe only a few minutes passed before Mom found me and gave me an earful for wandering off. But it seemed like an eternity. The fact that I remember this incident with painful clarity all these years later is significant because it speaks to the inevitable trauma being experienced by little children, some as young as 18 months, who are forcibly taken from their mothers at the U.S. border.

I imagine the terror these children experience, which multiplies my short-lived anxiety many times over, and fear the imprint of anguish will stay with them all their lives. They cannot understand why they are being taken away from their mothers; they cannot be sure they will ever see their mothers again. And their mothers must be no less terrified to lose their children to nameless, faceless bureaucrats who, in the indifferent words of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will see to it that “the children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

In a recent guest opinion in the Washington Post, Jaana Juvonen, a professor of development psychology at UCLA, and Jennifer Silvers, an assistant professor of developmental neuroscience at UCLA, make a compelling case for the proposition that separating vulnerable children from their parents is not only inhumane, but torture. They write:

“Children arriving at the U.S. border in search of asylum are frequently a particularly vulnerable population. In many cases fleeing violence and persecution, they also encounter hunger, illness and threats of physical harm along their hazardous journey to the border. This combination of experiences puts migrant children at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Such anxiety and mood disorders can be debilitating and intractable, particularly when they start in childhood. . . . The practice of separating families at the border is reprehensible and – based on science – goes against international and U.S. law, because the suffering it inflicts constitutes torture of children.”

Now imagine the exponential damage done to children who were not only taken from their parents at the border but are now unaccounted for. Credible news services tell us that as many as 1,500 children seized from their mothers at the border are now "lost.” For those children and their parents, the question of reunification may not be one of “When?” but “Whether?” There is no certainty that they will see one another again. Happy reunions– or reunions of any type – are not a given.

Several people familiar with the failed bureaucratic response to protecting migrant children taken from their parents express concern that the children could be subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, and even human trafficking.

There is no time to waste. Our nation has a moral obligation to find these missing children and reunite them with their parents. This is a national imperative because for these children, every minute of separation from their mothers is not just painful, it’s torture.
 

Lame ducks

carlson

At its most basic level politics is all about power¸who has it and who doesn’t.

One of politics' sad sights is an elected official who has been defeated at the polls but his term still has six months to go. It also applies to those appointed to a high public service position, such as a university president, or a top executive in a corporation who is asked to stay on the job until a successor is found.

Such individuals are known as lame ducks. They can no longer fly but are still expected to strut.

On May 25th University of Idaho President Chuck Staben penned a note e-mailed to the entire Vandal world making him the lamest of lame ducks. He revealed his change in status but indicated he would be there through the coming academic year. Neither he nor the board would say whether he was fired or resigned.

He went out of his way to say his departure had nothing to do with the on-going investigation by the university into the Athletic department’s handling of two sexual harassment complaints to which they allegedly did not respond. (The Moscow Police some say were the first to fumble the ball.)

A few days later though the University quietly reported the administrative leave of Athletic Director Rob Spear had been extended as the school’s internal investigation was taking longer than expected. There are those who think that regardless of the outcome Spear is toast, a victim of not what did you know and when did you know it but rather shouldn’t you have known sooner.

That question is perhaps better directed at Staben rather than Spear whom I personally believe did nothing wrong and hope the final report exonerates him.

While Staben apologized for breaking his pledge to stick around following his weird bid for the presidency of the University of New Mexico four years into his time as the Vandal leader, many felt the board left him little choice once they refused the standard one year contract extension. UNM appears to be in no better shape than Idaho but why was he that desperate to get out of Moscow unless the board had given signals of unhappiness.
Of course no one wants to work for a lame duck so what little talent that remains has to be dusting off the resume. Why the board signed off on this is a mystery. One would expect they would cut their loss, buy up what remains of his contract and send him packing.

From this vantage point the board appears culpable regarding many of the current problems.

This has to be the nadir of the University of Idaho’s decline, especially from a leadership standpoint. I used to think that day came a few years back when the ethically challenged board chair, Blake Hall of Idaho Falls drove off the talented Tim White who today just happens to be the Chancellor of the entire California State University system.

Maybe Staben faced impossible challenges but his tin ear to the politics of Idaho didn’t help. He is a decent person but no leader and in the wrong job. Declining state support and large increases in student fees have many parents questioning the value of a U of I degree. Staben has seemed helpless before the incoming tide.

Why anyone would want to succeed him is a good question. The U of I has had a few years of stability and solid leadership in the past before it became clear their “flagship” role was being supplanted by a rising Boise State.
From 1965 to 1989 two presidents, Ernie Hartung and Richard Gibb held the fort. No one in Moscow though recognized they were about to be sliced and diced by several well thought out and well executed strategic plans by Boise State capitalizing on its assets.

Today finds Boise State extending its search for a new president not yet finding the right fit. One can bet though they’ll find the right fit and he or she will be very good. In the meantime Idaho State’s board has snagged the best rising in-state talent.

Attracting BSU CEO Kevin Satterlee bodes well for their future and his resume reveals he spent six years as a deputy attorney general assigned to be counsel to the board of education. It’s a good bet he understands both the board’s politics and the state’s. He has ties to southeast Idaho as well.

His law degree is from the University of Idaho but his undergraduate degree is from, you guessed it, Boise State. It used to be the state’s GOP leadership and office-holders were Vandals: Phil Reberger, Dave Leroy, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch, Robie Russell, and Brad Little. All but Little are now in their 70s and are almost off the stage.

There’s no upcoming Vandal coming off the bench. There’s plenty of Bronco’s getting ready. What do you expect though from a leaderless university drifting into mediocrity?

Cry, beloved University of Idaho. Cry.
 

Must the president be a role model?

jones

Washington teacher Mandy Manning was recognized by the President as 2018 National Teacher of the Year at a White House ceremony on May 2. Manning teaches refugee and immigrant children at the Newcomer Center of Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane.

During the ceremony, Manning handed the President a packet of 45 letters from her students. One letter was written by a female student from Rwanda, who said Trump serves as “a role model.” She expressed hope he would “take care” with his words because they “have a lot of weight.”

Is it fair to ask our President to set a high standard of behavior for our children and grandchildren? Should he have to act with honesty and decency as a role model? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln certainly did and have been revered over the years for having done so. They inspired young and old to greatness by setting the example.

You don’t have to be a president, or even a governor, to be an inspiring role model for youngsters. My father, Henry Jones, operated a large cattle-feeding operation near Eden for many years. He bought and sold millions of dollars’ worth of cattle and feed strictly on his word--no need for written contracts. He gained a reputation for truth and honesty. He certainly helped to orient my moral compass, as well as many other young people in the Magic Valley.

Role models are critically important in high office and there is no higher office in this country than President. They set the tone for decency, truth, and honor for both kids and the general citizenry. I believe our President is sorely lacking as a role model and our children will suffer as a result.

When you rail against the “horrible” forced separation of young children from their amnesty-seeking parents and then blame your own policy on others, it is both cruel and dishonest. When you rail against trading with Iran and North Korea, but then excuse a Chinese company (ZTE Corp.) for doing just that, in addition to posing a national security threat against America, you are a hypocrite. When your relationship to the truth is tenuous, at best, you are not a good role model for American kids.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney said, “I would not point to the President as a role model for my grandkids.” James Lankford, a GOP Senator from Oklahoma, echoed that sentiment on May 27. He said of the President, “I don’t want my kids to speak the way he speaks.” And, Senator John McCain, who is a genuine role model, has also expressed concern about the President’s crude behavior.

Regardless of how they come down on political issues, we have a right to expect governmental officials, and particularly the President, to speak the truth and to conduct themselves with honor and dignity. And, we should expect the lower rank of officials, like Romney, Lankford and McCain, to call out those in their own party who refuse to behave themselves. Bad conduct has a trickle-down effect on our youth.
 

It ain’t necessarily so

rainey

Seems our national media and political voices have been perpetuating a myth about our erstwhile President’s base and his clout with members thereof. And that myth appears to be dead wrong.

Cases in point: The Atlantic proclaimed Trump’s “Building a blue collar foundation.” The Associated Press questioned what “Trump’s attraction of working class voters” would mean for future elections. Even The New York Times headlined a Trump’s 2016 victory was “a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue collar White and working class voters.”

None of that appears to be true. Recent, unconnected and widely dispersed surveys support nearly none of those claims. Especially, a newly published, and heavily researched work by Professors Nicholas Carnes of Duke University and Noam Lupu of Vanderbilt.

A key finding of theirs is most previous polling didn’t ask about voter occupations which is a statistically preferred measure of social class among scholars. So, other polls didn’t know if responders were farm workers or CEOs. And pundits - as well as other “scholars” - somehow came up with the claim Trump’s base consisted of mostly people without college degrees.

Two problems there. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, aren’t college graduates. But, they’re CEO’s. Very, very rich CEO’s. While they probably didn’t vote for Trump, their presence in previous voter surveys - which included income - would certainly shatter the typical Trump backer myth.

And, two, the work of Drs. Carnes and Lupu found, while 70% of Trump’s supporters don’t have degrees, 70% is the same number for all Republican voters. So, Trump’s non-college graduate number is about the same as any other successful GOPers.

There’s more. Trump’s backers are not overwhelmingly poor. About 35% had incomes of less than $50,000 a year - both Whites and Hispanics. Meaning most of his voters - about 65% - came from the better-off half of our economy.

As for education, in this statistical examination, supporters in the last election were shown to be relatively well-schooled. “There was a 15-20% difference of Trump support between those with a college degree and those without,” they found. Said another way, among Whites without degrees voting for Trump, nearly 80% were in the top half of income distribution. And this: one in five without a degree had a household income over $100,000.

We’ve been told Trump’s base is full of beer-swilling, overweight, gun-loving, Confederate flag-waving, under-educated, poor Whites. According to this study, and some other recent work, White, non-Hispanic voters without college degrees, earning below the median household income, made up only 25%. Not exactly the “trailer trash” image the media and social media portray.

Stereotyping and scapegoating descriptions are not correct images. The narrative that Trump won mostly because of “lower income, working class” communities seems not to be true. As more academics and survey outfits use better grist for questions, we’ll likely see Carnes and Lupu’s work borne out.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – June 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for June 4. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Education uncertainty continues this week, as Boise State University gets an interim, not permanent, president, and thew University of Idaho sees leadership changes there met with a local silence. Brigham Young University-Idaho, however, while quietly rolling along, posted new enrollment records.

With the necessary signatures collected to place an initiative before voters this fall, supporters of a measure that would provide health care to tens of thousands of Idahoans began preparing for the next phase of their campaign Thursday.

The United States and Canada began negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime in Washington, D.C. on May 29-30. Acting Assistant Secretary Francisco Palmieri welcomed U.S. and Canadian negotiating teams and opened the first session of talks.

The State Board of Education on June 1 appointed Dr. Martin Schimpf as interim president of Boise State University.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today signed the Record of Decision for the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project.

The Idaho Transportation Department will host the first public meeting as part of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s recently formed Executive Committee focused on the study of autonomous and connected vehicles in Idaho.

Official spring semester enrollment totals for both on-campus and online students at Brigham Young University-Idaho show continued growth.

Strong results from a bi-annual citizen survey drove a rare 4.5-star rating for the city of Boise for its “quality of governance and vision.” Seattle-based Northwest Research Group conducted the survey of Boise residents between March 14 and April 8. In its report of survey results, Northwest said its 5-Star rating system for municipalities, which is used to rate more than 1,000 cities nationwide, is designed to make a perfect score very difficult to achieve and “very few have even achieved a 4.5-star rating.”

A dozen innovative water-saving technologies received a financial boost today from the federal government and water agencies across the Southwest with the announcement of this year’s Innovative Conservation Program grant recipients.

PHOTO Idaho Falls school officials are looking at trying again after a $110 million bond issue for major upgrades at two high schools – revisions to Skyline High School are pictured here – failed at the polls last month. (photo/Visit Idaho)
 

Something for those in the gap

schmidt

Dear Brad,

I hear you say that you favor doing “something” for Idahoans in “The Gap”. These folks make less money than people who can go on the Idaho health insurance exchange (Your Health Idaho, YHI) so they can’t afford health insurance. You presided over the bitter debates in the Idaho Senate about establishing YHI. Governor Otter bravely fought for this and continues to support it; do you? You know the current system where we pay for the uninsured through catastrophic care, but then liens are filed and they are bankrupt. Some even die for postponing their care. It’s costing Idaho Counties tens of millions and The Idaho General Fund as much or more. I want to know your plan for getting health coverage for our working poor citizens, since you seem reluctant to support the Medicaid Expansion Initiative.

I know you know the numbers. You know how much Medicaid Expansion would mean to rural hospitals and clinics. So explain to me why more expensive half-measures like PCAP or this year’s double waiver plans make sense to you. You supported these plans, but you say you didn’t support the Medicaid Expansion Initiative, which covers more people and costs Idaho taxpayers less. You didn’t sign the petition.

I’ve read your support for returning to the High Risk Pool model, where we tax all health insurance premiums to pay for those who can’t get health insurance. Before the ACA when preexisting conditions were a reason to be denied health insurance, they seemed a reasonable solution. The goal was to get everybody covered by a health insurance plan, as it should be. Explain to me why this is a better option than Medicaid Expansion.

Maybe you aren’t willing to fight the well-funded and very vocal far-right Freedom Foundation who believes only “free market” health care solutions should be considered. That YHI fight in the legislature sure was bitter. But Idahoans flocked to the exchange to buy health insurance. And county indigent and state Catastrophic costs plummeted. It was a hard fight, but I think it was worth it.

Governor Otter has appointed at least three “advisory panels” on health care since 2007 and all have made recommendations to promote universal health insurance coverage in Idaho. He also had two “work groups” who recommended Medicaid coverage be expanded. So Governor Otter has had plenty of hand-picked groups give him advice neither he nor the legislature was willing to act on. Is this your plan too?

To be fair, Governor Otter has followed the advice of one group to promote medical education in Idaho. He supported it with budget recommendations. He also followed the advice to work on changing health care delivery through promoting the Primary Care Medical Home Model for Idaho. And Idaho is in the middle of rolling out a State Health Innovation Plan, designed to reform delivery and payment methods for the state. If “Medicaid is broken”, as I have heard in the Idaho statehouse, let’s work to fix it.

Director Cameron’s innovative suggestion to move high-cost patients with certain diagnoses onto Medicaid to lower private insurance costs shows Otter’s appointees can think outside the box.

It looks like Idaho could be poised for some dramatic and innovative health care changes. States could lead with health care innovation. I believe expanding Medicaid eligibility fits well with these. Why don’t you? Let me know.
 

Shifts of market and region

stapiluslogo1

Forty years ago one of the big ongoing news stories, and one of the big serious issues, facing the Northwest was the impending shortage of energy supply. We just weren’t producing enough electricity, we were told, to satisfy the growth needs of the region.

All sorts of things happened in those years in an attempt to deal with this problem, not least the massive nuclear power building in Washington state (remember the wonderfully-acronymed WPPSS?) that resulted in economic collapse and massive debt.

What never did happen was this: The Northwest never did run out of power.

Idaho, Washington and Oregon have kept on growing, economically and demographically, in the years since, and adequate supply of electric power has never been a significant problem. Neither, for that matter, has cost; juice has been about as inexpensive in the region through these years as it has anywhere in the country.

One of several reasons for that has been the existence, for 80 years so far, of the Bonneville Power Administration. Headquartered at Portland, the BPA has the job of taking the immense amount of electric power generated by the federal dams in the Columbia River system and selling it to customers, mainly regional and local utilities. Idaho utilities get some of this power, and the state benefits more broadly from the way the cheap hydropower has helped keep electric rates low.

Political threats to BPA’s existence have surfaced from time to time - there’s been a rumbling from the Trump Administration most recently - but the most immediate and maybe most intractable threat right now is economic. It comes not from anyone trying to do it in, but from broader conditions.

These are laid out in a fascinating short report by Idaho economist Anthony Jones and activist Linwood Laughy (he was involved in the Highway 12 megaload battle), who with several others began looking into the economic changes surrounding electric power in the Northwest. Their report (you can see it at http://rmecon.com/examples/BonnevillePower%20May%202018.pdf) concluded that BPA could be facing extinction unless something dramatic changes.

They’re not alone in issuing warnings. Elliott Mainzer, BPA’s current administrator, warned in March, “We’ve taken huge hits in the secondary revenues market just like every other hydro provider up here, with cheap gas, low load growth, and the oversupply conditions. It’s been a bloodbath for folks in the wholesale market. I’m not in a panic mode, but I am in a very, very significant sense of urgency mode.”

That concisely lays out some of the issues. Oversupply - of electric power - has become real, as solar, wind and other power sources have become major factors in the Northwest. As supply has grown, prices have fallen. The big drop came around 2008 and 2009, when “the open market price of power dropped from $90 to $25.” It has not much rebounded in the years since. The declining need for additional power already has reduced the use of coal-fired plants in the region.

BPA has been protected somewhat by long-term contracts with many of its utilities, but some of those utilities are agitating for lower prices from other sources, and negotiations are likely to be fierce as contracts come up for renewal. Traditionally, BPA has made money by selling excess power to California, but California also is seeing a massive increase in renewable energy: It is being flooded with additional power as well. Meantime, BPA has a number of costs, from environmental requirements to pension funds to compensation for dam maintenance, that it cannot reduce. It is being squeezed, hard.

That started about a decade ago, and there’s an easy way to measure it. In 2008 BPA had financial reserves of almost $1 billion; now, only about $5 million of that is left, the rest of it gone to pay for costs when income hasn’t kept up.

The Northwest energy world has been turned on its head since those energy-shortage days of 40 years ago. It may look a lot different a decade from now.
 

Foreign policy by Larry, Curly and Moe

jones

It was never certain that Kim Jong-un was going to make any meaningful concessions in the ill-fated nuclear negotiations. What was clear to any reasonably-informed observer was that Kim was not going to give up his nuclear weapons. He would have been an absolute fool to do so. Kim may be a lot of loathsome things but he does not appear to be a fool.

People may recall that President George W. Bush labeled North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil in January of 2002, along with Iran and Iraq. The following year, Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein was deposed on the pretext that he had a nuclear weapons program. He had no such program, but his demise seems to have spurred the other two members of the evil trio to shift their nuclear programs into high gear. One could not fault them for thinking they might be safe from regime change if they actually possessed a working atomic bomb. Saddam’s fate had to be a stark warning to Kim’s daddy.

If one studies the Kim family you learn that they are tyrannical cut-throats. More importantly, they rarely keep their word. Over the years, American Presidents have negotiated deals with them that the Kims had no intention of keeping. Even with that history, our current President characterized young Kim as a good person who could be trusted, giving him credibility and stature on the world stage.

When Kim suggested a summit to talk about resolving the nuclear issue, our President jumped at the bait without giving it a second thought. Going head-to-head at a summit with the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was a long-cherished dream of the Kim family. They had finally made the big time and got it without having to give a thing in return.

With the President’s head filled with visions of a Nobel Peace Prize, Kim knew he had him where he wanted him. The President openly displayed how much he wanted a deal, prompting Kim to suggest that denuclearization did not actually mean he would give up his beloved weapons.

Enter John Bolton who knew that the U.S. would have to pry Kim’s nukes out of his cold, dead hands. Wanting either to scotch the deal for his own reasons or to get the President off of the limb he had climbed onto, Bolton publicly suggested the deal with Kim would be based on the “Libya model,” which ended badly for the tyrant. Bolton was fully aware this would launch Kim into orbit, which it did. Kim suggested the summit might be called off. The President’s scuttling of the Iran deal, even though Iran was complying with it, may have added to Kim’s discomfort.

Seeing the Nobel Prize fading into the distance, the President implored Kim to stay at the table, claiming any deal would make him “very, very happy.” Bolton may then have convinced the President that he was way over his skis and had gotten painted into a corner that would require him to take any deal, just to have something to show for his wheeling and dealing.

So, it was decided to send out faithful Mike Pence to put a bullet in the head of the summit. The VP reiterated the Libya model, knowing full well that it would relaunch the Rocket Man and likely kill the deal. It certainly got a reaction but not quite enough to fully sink the deal. The President was able to seize on Kim’s fulmination, however, to strangle the life out of the summit and save his personal bacon.

If we try another adventure of this critical magnitude, could it be suggested that someone do some basic homework, make careful preparations and for heck sakes not negotiate by the seat of our pants. This deal was not at all artful and made our dear country somewhat of a laughingstock around the globe.