Mike Pompeo’s Masculine Meltdown

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a meltdown last night after he had earlier claimed the talks with North Korea were “productive” and made progress “on almost all of the central issues,” followed by North Korea’s blast at “unilateral and robber-like denuclearization demands as [complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)], declaration and verification that go against the spirit of the North-U.S. summit meeting.”

Pompeo returned that if the US is behaving like a gangster, then so is the rest of the world, referring to United Nations resolutions that North Korea disarm. (One Korean speaker says that “robber” is a better translation than “gangster.”) He then went on to say that North Korea did not have an issue with CVID, directly contradicting North Korea’s statement of its position. He also went back to the importance of “maintaining maximum pressure” on North Korea, after Donald Trump had backed off from that phrase.

Pompeo’s response follows the pattern that many men follow when they are challenged by someone they feel should be subordinate.

“Oh yeah? You’ll be sorry you said that!”

“You really agree with me – admit it!”

“I’ll show you.”

The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea has been heavily father-inflected from the start. Vice President Mike Pence sternly stared across the DMZ to demonstrate American “resolve.” His rhetoric was that of a father to a disobedient child.


The easy assumption by the Trump administration that their “maximum pressure” in sanctions had brought Kim Jong Un around to a willingness to give up his nuclear weapons program is part of their belief in overweening masculinity as a way to force other people to one’s will. Consultation with their own experts in the State or Defense Departments would have told them that North Korea sees the nuclear weapons program as essential for its survival – not likely to be given up easily.

Despite expressions of that reality by experts through op-eds, white papers, and Twitter threads, Pompeo pressed forward with CVID, which has to look to the North Koreans like the demand for unilateral disarmament that it is. North Korea’s statement after Pompeo’s visit makes clear that they see a stepwise process, as they have advocated in the past, as the way to limiting their nuclear weapons program. And, shockingly to those alpha males, they expect US actions in return.

But shows of masculinity rule in this administration. Don’t expect them to study or understand that statement. They’ll keep grimacing in the belief that it makes a difference.


Top photo: ABC News

Pence Photo: CNN


Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.


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