Like a deranged showman, Trump is turning hostage negotiations with North Korea into a high-stakes reality show.
As the White House works to secure the release of three Americans held hostage by North Korea, Trump is using the negotiations to draw attention to himself in what has come to resemble a high-stakes reality show.
For weeks, Trump has gleefully floated the possibility of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, dropping hints about where and when the “big event” might take place and hyping it like a salesman.
At one point, he got so caught up in his own hype that he mixed up the two Koreas.
This week, in the latest installment of the reality show presidency, Trump casually brought up the three American prisoners who are being held in a North Korean labor camp, using their fate as a teaser.
In a tweet posted Thursday, Trump first criticized “previous administrations” for not securing the release of the prisoners, apparently hoping that no one would notice that only one of the three men was detained during the Obama administration. The other two were detained on Trump’s watch.
Then, Trump floated the idea that the situation could soon change, writing, “Stay tuned!”
On Friday, he repeated his prediction as he spoke to reporters outside of the White House.
In what sounded like a teaser for a TV show, Trump said the administration had set a time and place for the summit with North Korea, but refused to provide the information to reporters.
“We’ll be announcing it soon,” he said. (Earlier this week, Trump said he hoped to hold the “big event” in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, saying it would offer the right backdrop for a “great celebration.”)
Turning his attention to three Americans detained in North Korea, Trump told reporters on the South Lawn that “a lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages.”
“I think you’re going to see very good things. As I said yesterday, stay tuned,” he added, referring to his tweet.
Throughout all of this, Trump has not once signaled that he has any concept of the gravity of the situation. The lives of the hostages, and of their families, are all part of the show.
But according to former State Department official Christopher Hill, who led the U.S. delegation during talks with North Korea under the George W. Bush administration, Trump’s approach is not just insensitive — it’s dangerous.
“I understand they take pride in doing things differently,” Hill told the Washington Post, speaking about Trump’s team. “But this is serious business — people’s lives are at stake. It just takes a little bit of discipline.”
But that’s the problem. Trump doesn’t know how to show discipline — he only knows how to be a showman.