Dec 16, 2009

Dear Kim Jong-Il, Will You Be America's Friend? Circle YES or NO [Passing Notes]

In the grand tradition of the last two guys, Obama has written a "personal" letter to megalomaniac North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il. But will Kimmy agree to go steady? Welcome to the middle school dance of international diplomacy.

It is perversely humbling that humanity-altering processes like nuclear disarmament and anti-missile defense can hinge on the contents of a single letter, typed and printed on a piece of paper, signed by a left-handed man from Hawaii.

Much like a middle school romance, Obama sent his friends to talk to Kim before penning a note to be passed through a chain of hands across the Pacific Ocean.

President Barack Obama has written a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as part of an intense effort to draw the reclusive nation back to nuclear disarmament talks, a senior State Department official said Tuesday. The letter was delivered to North Korean officials last week by Obama's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth

Also like middle school, everyone stayed up late obsessing over whether he'd say "Dear Kim" or "To Kim"; and "From Barry with Love" or "Yours Truly, Barry." And would he send it during first period or second? Right after the bell, or near the end?

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also sent personal letters to Kim, although not as early in their terms as did Obama. ... [Clinton-era] Ambassador-at-Large Robert Gallucci told reporters the letter was addressed "To The Supreme Leader of the DPRK" - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Post said efforts early in Bush's term to send a letter were stymied by an intense debate over whether to use an honorific such as "his excellency" to address Kim.

Bush's mistake (in addition to the whole "axis of evil" thing) was that he accidentally applied the middle school dance's logic stateside, too, letting his teenage boy bravado over stupid stuff like honorifics get in the way of his communiques. (Incidentally, this is the same grandstanding logic that holds that bowing to Japan's emperor is akin to treason and that ending a war is a war crime.) Obama doesn't actually transcend this, but he is pretty good at avoiding it at opportune moments. (Side benefit of keeping the content of Kim's letter "closely guarded": Nobody finds out he called him Snookums.)

Speaking of teenagers and fronting: Kim's sunglasses are back in style, no? [AP]

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