The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: These Boots Were Made for Walking Away

President Donald Trump’s talks with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, ended abruptly on Thursday.

Andrew Harnik / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Thursday, February 28. The Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to be the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Michael Cohen also returned to the Hill—this time testifying behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee.

Throwing In the Towel: President Donald Trump’s talks with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, ended abruptly on Thursday, reportedly after Kim insisted that he wanted international sanctions lifted in exchange for dismantling only his Yongbyon nuclear-facilities hub. “Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said in a press conference. In so doing, Trump actually managed to follow his own advice, argues David Graham. Trump also said that he would “take [Kim Jong Un] at his word” that he knew nothing about Otto Warmbier, the American student detained in North Korea who died shortly after being returned to the U.S. Some Republican lawmakers have subsequently pushed back on Trump’s remarks. However, one party actually got what it wanted out of the summit—Vietnam.

It Doesn’t Change Much: Michael Cohen’s appearance before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday might have seemed exciting. But both Republicans and Democrats say his appearance doesn’t actually change their political strategies—nor do they think it will lead to any major consequences for the president. “Cohen’s hearing was good TV, but I don’t know that it necessarily changes the ball game in any way,” said an aide to a senior House Democratic leader. And while Cohen’s allegations of Trump’s racism were dramatic, Vann Newkirk writes, the president has proved resilient against such allegations, “desensitizing voters with continued regular exposure to doses of racism.”

Two Ways to Win: Democrats have two distinct paths to winning back the White House in 2020, writes Ron Brownstein. They can nominate a candidate who can secure voters in the Rust Belt—particularly in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Or they can make an appeal to voters in the Sun Belt, and flip traditionally Republican states such as Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina.

Space Squabble: The U.S. has paid Russia to send American astronauts into space since winding down the space-shuttle program in 2011. In 2014, NASA turned to two private companies, SpaceX and Boeing, to help develop its own avenues of astronaut transport. The date of the first test run is near, but Russia, which controls one-half of the International Space Station, had apprehensions.


President Trump speaks as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on during a news conference after the summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Evan Vucci / AP)

Ideas From The Atlantic

Honor and Dishonor (Eliot A. Cohen)
“But rarely in our history has this country had one of its major parties so completely in the grip not of fools but of opportunists, not of the vicious but the pathologically fearful, not of the misguided but the spineless.” → Read on.

Is It Cruel and Unusual to Execute a Man With Dementia? (Garrett Epps)
“Vernon Madison murdered an Alabama police officer in 1985. After several mistrials on constitutional grounds, he was convicted in 1998 and pursued federal habeas relief until 2015. Meanwhile, Madison’s health collapsed. After a series of strokes, he is now unable to walk, and is also incontinent and legally blind. He cannot recite the alphabet or rephrase a simple sentence. Perhaps most important legally, he can no longer remember the crime he committed.” → Read on.

What the Media Won’t Tell You About ISIS (Simon Cottee)
“Since [the Islamic State] came to global prominence in mid-2014, the Western media have consistently overestimated the group, attributing to it extraordinary technical savvy, awesome powers of strategic foresight, and a Terminator-like ability to keep reconstituting itself and coming back from the dead to terrorize and destroy all who stand in its path.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

‘This Is Not a Day at the Beach’: Pelosi Tells Moderate Dems to Stop Voting With the GOP (Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan, Politico)
Michael Cohen Made Four Big Allegations. How Skeptical Should We Be? (David French, National Review)
Kirsten Gillibrand Vying to Be the ‘Vice’ President (Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner)
Betsy DeVos Pushes New School-Choice Program (Rebecca Klein, HuffPost)
The Creeping Definition of Sexual Assault (Christine Rosen, Commentary)

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