Two crazies hardly add up to sanity. But as long as, Kim Jong Un is yucking it up with Dennis Rodman, it seems unlikely North Korea’s supreme leader will be nuking anyone.
That is a low bar as diplomacy goes, but it may be all we can hope to take from this. A more improbable display of weirdness is hard to imagine.
Rodman, a former NBA star, was in North Korea last week along with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters and a production crew to film an episode for a new HBO series from a media company called VICE. So all this began with an elevated cringe factor.
The Globetrotters, a correspondent from VICE and some North Korean basketball stars played a mixed game with two Americans on each side, and Kim and Rodman in the stands. The game ended in a tie. (The Globetrotters are not crazy.)
The Associated Press described the scene: “Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on a table during the game ... as he sat knee to knee with Rodman” who “still had on his nose rings and other piercings.” That was followed by what the VICE correspondent called an “epic feast” of sushi and multiple toasts.
VICE’s founder later said Kim and Rodman “bonded.” After the game Rodman told Kim, “You have a friend for life.”
At the airport on the way to Beijing, Rodman outdid himself, saying of Kim: “He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him. Guess what, I love him. The guy’s awesome.”
Not content with that, he dug deeper. It is “amazing,” Rodman said, that the North Koreans are “so honest.” He added that Kim’s predecessors – his father and grandfather – “were great leaders.”
There are several possible explanations for all this, all of which may be true: Rodman was drunk. He is nuts. His high school history teacher was also the basketball coach and spent all his time on the court. Or the North Koreans just forgot to show him labor camps or starving people.
Then again, maybe this is an attempt at something like the “pingpong diplomacy” that preceded President Richard Nixon’s visit to China. The giveaway could be if Kim starts sporting tattoos.