Set the date: Trump says June 12 summit is back on after meeting top North Korean official

The news here is less that the summit is back on, which has been clear enough over the past week, than the way Trump described it in this soundbite. It’s now a “get to know you” session, the first step in a process.

That’s realistic, as it defies belief to think Kim’s going to give Trump anything meaningful in their first gladhanding session. All POTUS is doing here is managing expectations. Maybe there’ll be a few proverbial “confidence-building measures” agreed to, followed by lower-level meetings led by Pompeo in the weeks and months afterward.

Hawks are distraught, though. The *whole point* of this summit from Kim’s perspective is propaganda, to place himself on equal footing with the president of the world’s most powerful country. If all that’s being asked of him now is to “get to know” Trump, that … sounds like a total win for him. He could spent the rest of the year giving the White House the runaround on follow-up meetings while milking the summit for every ounce of prestige it’s worth. Why didn’t the State Department start with a string of lower-level meetings to extract meaningful concessions and then reward Kim with a presidential summit to seal a deal?

I think the hawks are being a little too pessimistic — or I did, I should say, until I watched this. Even the term “maximum pressure” is verboten now?

Yeesh. You know which hawk is feeling the most agita today? Surely it’s John Bolton, who went on Fox in March and called for essentially the opposite of the “get to know you” approach. Bolton foresaw a short meeting potentially: He wanted Trump to walk into the summit, ask Kim which ports U.S. ships should sail into to pick up North Korea’s weapons and nuclear components, and then walk out if he didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Bolton’s extremely wary of the NorKs stringing the U.S. along for propaganda reasons and he’s convinced (or was as of a few months ago) that further diplomacy is pointless. Trump’s pushing all of that skepticism aside and going the Pompeo “baby steps” route instead. The thousand-mile journey towards denuclearization, which is very likely a dead end, begins with one step. Bolton must be beside himself.

I’ll leave you with this. Shortly after saying it, he admitted he hadn’t opened the letter yet.