The Atlantic Politics Daily: This Was Not a Trump-Kim Summit

Talks with North Korea fall apart, exposing severe downsides to highly personalized diplomacy. Plus: the new Supreme Court cases to follow.

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Today in Politics

(Philip O’Connor / Reuters)

Here’s one big foreign-policy story rumbling at a lower decibel than the chaos of the White House’s removal of U.S. troops from key positions in Syria: How denuclearization talks with North Korea collapsed, yet again.

Without celebration and certainly with none of the now-familiar, colorful Trumpian rhetoric, U.S. and North Korean officials met in Sweden over the weekend in an effort to revive nuclear negotiations. Talks broke down—so quickly that some suspected Pyongyang had no intention of carrying through in the first place.

Such a setup was doomed from the beginning, Uri Friedman reports, especially with prior talks so reliant on “highly personalized diplomacy,” based on President Trump’s relationship (a “beautiful” one) with Kim Jong Un. Now at least one party is a little bit busy with urgent domestic issues:

The president is “up to his ears in subpoenas; he’s got the secretary of state, who’s on very wobbly ground. Anything he does with the North Koreans, unless it’s an enormous concession on their part … is going to be torn to shreds [in the U.S.] as drama, theater,” a North Korea watcher who has been involved in track-2 diplomacy told me on the condition of anonymity to discuss the issue.

Read the full story of the dissolution of talks here.

—Shan Wang

What Else We’re Watching


On Syria: The White House’s abrupt decision-making on U.S. troops in Syria meant deserting America’s Syrian Kurdish partners—a betrayal. It also meant leaving behind an unworkable strategy in Syria, started under one reluctant president (Obama) and haphazardly maintained by another (Trump), Kathy Gilsinan reports.

+ “This policy abandonment … will severely damage American credibility and reliability in any future fights where we need strong allies,” write General Joseph Votel and Elizabeth Dent. (Do their names sound familiar? Votel was commander of CENTOM from 2016 and 2019, and Dent is a counterterrorism expert who’s worked for U.S. Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.)

On the Supreme Court, back in session this week: Experts are eyeing several cases that will face a Court with an ideological makeup markedly different from just a few years ago.

+ Three alleged wrongful-termination cases arrive at the Court. Emma Green speaks to legal experts on how the legal arguments might play out.

+ The Court’s decision on June Medical Services v. Gee doesn’t “technically threaten Roe v. Wade,” Leah Litman argues, but “no matter which path the Court takes, overruling Roe or limiting it into oblivion, the destination will be the same.”

On a worrying public-health trend: Rates of STDs in the U.S. have risen for a fifth year straight, according to a new CDC report (a record high for combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia). The disappearance of strong local health departments certainly doesn’t help.

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

Inside the White House’s Effort to Contain Ukraine Callout (Pamela Brown, Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, CNN)

Elizabeth Warren Stands by Her Account of Being Pushed Out of Her First Teaching Job Because of Pregnancy (Zak Hudak and Bo Rickson, CBS News)

Inside Trump’s Obsession with Polygraphs (Daniel Lippman, Politico)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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