If someone had told you a decade ago that Donald Trump — President Donald Trump — would be sitting down and making nice with the despotic leader of North Korea, you'd figure it was some far-fetched script for another wacky reality TV show. Or a Saturday Night Live bit.
But this is no reality show or silly skit. It's the real thing.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un sat down together on Singapore's Sentosa Island — privately with translators for 40 minutes and later together with senior aides for more than three hours. While details of the historic meeting are pretty vague with promises of more to come, there is little doubt that the world has taken a step in a safer direction.
What we do know:
• The two leaders signed a document whereby Kim "reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." In exchange, Trump agreed to "provide security guarantees" to North Korea.
• Trump announced he would end the regular military exercises the US conducts with South Korea. He also said he hopes to eventually withdraw the 28,000 US troops from South Korea, although that's not on the table at this time.
• Trump told reporters he would "absolutely" invite Kim to visit the White House.
• Economic sanctions remain in place “until North Korea completely and verifiably eliminates its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Los Angeles Times.
Trump already has been heavily criticized over this by those who believe he can do no good no matter what. But the Trump haters need to step back on this one. While he has had his share of fumbles, the president gets a gold star here. When you wipe away the political shenanigans, the childish rhetoric, the tweets, the Trumpisms and sabre-rattlings, the Singapore summit has fostered some optimism. Whether it moves to a formal end to the Korean War — fought militarily from 1950-53 but never really finished — remains to be seen.
Trump is the first U.S. president to ever meet a North Korean head of state, which in itself is somewhat miraculous, especially given than it wasn't all that long ago when he was referring to Kim as "little rocket man" following Kim's testing late last year of intercontinental ballistic missiles. In true tit-for-tat fashion, Kim called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” a word suggesting senility.
But, Kim said Tuesday at the historic signing, “The world will see a major change," noting that he and Trump “decided to leave the past behind.” That's encouraging because two men who each have a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the world 10 times over really need to play nice together.
Maybe the reason Trump and Kim hit it off so well is due to the fact that they're so much alike: Thin-skinned alpha males, shaded with arrogance and bluster, given to sudden rants and pomposity.
But heroes on the world stage? We'll see.
This show is far from over. Deals with North Korea have gone sour before, and as Secretary Pompeo said, “Many presidents previously have signed off on pieces of paper only to find out the North Koreans either didn’t promise what we thought they had or actually reneged on their promises.”
And so, while total nuclear disarmament — if or when it happens — is many years away, Tuesday's summit is a starting point. It's certainly a far cry from Trump's threat last September "to totally destroy North Korea" if forced to defend itself or its allies.
"We both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond," Trump said at the conclusion of the summit. "People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy."
We can only hope.