Liberal Pundits Fret Bush Mocked Korean Tyrant as 'Pygmy,' Wants His 'Head on a Wall'

Monday's morning shows displayed the Democratic diplomacy that may take over the House and Senate next year. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter was openly dismayed that President Bush refers to North Korea's murderous communist tyrant, Kim Jong Il, as "'The Pygmy'...Not every helpful, actually." On NBC's Today, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman lamented that it's too late for Bush to salvage peace: "North Korea has concluded that this administration wants their, their head on a wall, basically, and therefore there's probably nothing the United States can do now, to really reassure the North to give up their nukes, which is really their life insurance policy." This came just a minute or so after Friedman described Kim as the "Tony Soprano of Pyongyang."

NBC set up the Friedman interview in which reporter Andrea Mitchell explained that "experts" say this weekend's tougher steps are insufficient. She quoted Robert Gallucci and Wendy Sherman without telling the audience that the two of them were essential cogs in Bill Clinton's Kim-coddling regime. For "balance," they were echoed by Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Matt Lauer and Friedman expressed some dismay at the prospect of North Korea not saying "Uncle" to the international consensus against nuclear proliferation, but they ended on a predictable note of suggesting Bush would have to knuckle under and grant Kim's wish for direct diplomacy:

Lauer: "And real quick, Tom, the talk of, the discussion of bilateral talks. The President said he's not gonna sit down face-to-face. Just two countries with the North Koreans. A lot of, there seems to be a growing chorus that, that kind of thing is inevitable. It's going to have to happen. What's your take on it?"

Friedman: "Well, you know, people who know this well, Matt, say that what the North Koreans do want are security guarantees and direct talks with the United States but I wonder, myself, whether it isn't too late? Whether North Korea has concluded that this administration wants their, their head on a wall, basically, and therefore there's probably nothing the United States can do now, to really reassure the North to give up their nukes, which is really their life insurance policy."

Liberals always insist on never calling the world's most murderous and tyrannical leaders by bad names or insisting that it might be a good idea if they lose their grip on power. Can you imagine these pundits suggesting sweet talk (and no insults, no mustache jokes) with Adolf Hitler? Rampaging against calling Pearl Harbor a day of "infamy"? Not very helpful? And yet Friedman, just moments before the "head on the wall" talk, (accurately) described North Korea as a gangster regime:

"Look we're dealing really with a gangster regime in North Korea, Matt. You know Kim Jong Il is really, he's the Tony Soprano of Pyongyang basically. He's not gonna be influenced by, you know, some half-hearted inspection regime. The only thing that will, I think, influence him on the coercive side is if China basically turns off the lights."

On Monday's Imus in the Morning program on MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter discussed their cover story on Kim Jong Il: "'The Pygmy,' as President Bush calls him. Not very helpful, actually." When Imus laughed and joked that he calls Kim that, too, but he’s not the president, Alter sternly warned, like a school teacher: "When word got back to North Korea that the president was calling him that, it did not help relations."

Imus then cracked, "Well, if all they blow up is Japan, what do we care?" Alter explained his liberal view:

"My problem with this whole thing is I don’t think that enough people are pointing out that what we are doing now isn’t going to do a damn bit of good. You know, we’ve had sanctions on this country for 30 or 40 years, probably. They haven’t done any good. So everybody gets together and imposes sanctions and pats each other on the back as if this is going do something, and we know that it isn’t."

Mmm, isn’t this basically the idea liberals had in dealing with Saddam? Impose sanctions and "contain" him? Alter continued by saying there’s a better, softer playbook:

So we are back to Square One, how to confront this, and I wish we would widen the options. Fareed Zakaria wrote a good column in Newsweek this week saying we should open negotiations with North Korea, and that has been my view for a while. Because one of the big problems with the Bush foreign policy is that they believe that you only negotiate with your friends. I don’t know where that started. But my reading of history for thousands of years, diplomacy has been about talking to your enemy. It doesn’t do a lot of good to just talk to your friends.

Imus added that James Baker made that point in his new book, to which Alter replied:

"I was struck by that. That is in direct contradiction to existing American foreign policy across the board. We don’t talk to Syria, as he indicated, he did repeatedly. After the Clinton administration, we don’t talk to Iran and we don’t talk to North Korea and you could argue that our whole foreign policy is basically ass-backwards right now."

Alter claimed that Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi’s decision to disarm his WMDs was a British initative, not an American victory, and again, the victories would have been with Clinton’s honey-bee approach:

"We were in the process of doing the same thing with North Korea at the end of the Clinton administration and Colin Powell was on board to continue that diplomatic process. And then he, when the president of South Korea came to Washington, President Bush indicated that he was not supportive of Colin Powell’s efforts and South Korean efforts to maintain diplomacy with North Korea, and he wanted to take a hard-line approach and he failed."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis