They call it puppy love.
President Trump’s previously declared bromance with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un — a veritable valentine of mash notes and public praise — has blossomed into a full blown courtship as the two leaders meet in their summit in Vietnam.
Trump is perhaps the only American president who could relate to the North Korean leader on such an intimate level due to a shared narcissism that motivates each of their psyches.
With the kind of shared insight that can only come from their mutual backgrounds as favored sons of powerful fathers who were each groomed to take over the family empire from a young age, Trump instinctively knows that flattery is the sustenance that feeds their relationship, and he laid it on heavy during a shared dinner on Wednesday evening.
Acting like a wizened father figure to the young dictator, the president told Kim that during his life he has encountered many people who had grown up amidst wealth and power and had suffered from the experience — emerging as screwed up adults. Kim Jong Un, Trump declared, was not one of those types, according to a report on CNN.
Trump told Kim Jong Un that he's known plenty of rich kids who ended up messed up, but that the young North Korean dictator was not among them — via @kylieatwood & @Kevinliptakcnn https://t.co/P2RxmefTME
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) February 26, 2019
Trump’s standards for what constitutes a psychologically sound adult, of course, may be quite different from what ordinary humans who haven’t themselves been raised with wealth and opulence as a given would think.
After all he’s praising the leader of a regime that maintains iron-fisted control over its citizens and who is alleged to have ordered his own half brother, Kim Jong Nam, assassinated at a Malaysian airport.
Before he left on his journey to the summit, Trump portrayed the North Korean leader as a lonely and misunderstood friend while speaking to a meeting of state governors in Washington.
“It’s a very interesting thing to say, but I’ve developed a very, very good relationship,” Trump told the governors, “We’ll see what that means. But he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.”
Enter Trump’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
With the president under the impression that his sterling personality and skill at nurturing personal relationships with authoritarian dictators will dissolve any barriers to a successful negotiation, he enters the North Korean talks with little more than his sack of sycophantism and a desire to do something to improve his approval ratings, all while staring over his shoulder waiting for that Nobel Peace Prize to appear.
“The personal relationship between the leaders is important in sort of setting an overall tenor to the negotiations,” said Victor Cha, a veteran North Korea adviser for the administration. “But having said that, when that really works is when you have two sides that are tough — you know, negotiating very hard, and trying to align their positions.”
Could President Trump just be a cad who is utilizing flattery to get what he wants from the man with whom he’s exchanged such “beautiful letters”? Or is this a love story for the ages that will bring peace and prosperity to a peninsula that has seen U.S. troops stationed in its southern part for nearly the last seven decades?
The meetings that the two mutually infatuated leaders hold over the next few days will determine whether we’re watching a sweet romantic comedy with a happy ending or a deadly apocalyptic military thriller. Somehow, envisioning Trump in a rom-com is difficult, but we can only hope that the spirit of Nora Ephron inhabits his body over the next few days for our own sake and the safety of the world.
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Original reporting by Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak At CNN.