Was it only a week ago this past Sunday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the North Koreans "unruly children" on Meet the Press and said all they wanted was attention and that "we shouldn't give it to them?"
Yes, that was her, the wife of the very same Bill Clinton who gave Kim Jung Il ten years' worth of free good publicity by traveling to North Korea and shining the global spotlight on the "Dear Leader's" generosity in releasing two journalists he had illegally seized in the first place. North Korea's last good press was before 1949, but now they shine in the glow of worldwide approval thanks to Bill (and Hillary) Clinton.
Those two nuclear explosions? Hey, so what? Those rockets that can go 4500 miles and someday hit Hawaii? Lots of countries have them and haven't the North Koreans proven that they are just plain folks?
History is curiously repeating itself. In 1993, President Clinton was working up the gumption to impose sanctions against North Korea after they were caught enriching uranium, but his momentum - always difficult to sustain at best - was derailed when former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang to announce a deal with North Korea to stop them from going nuclear. The deal turned out to be nothing more than a green light, but no sanctions were imposed.
Now former President Clinton has upended the world's efforts to isolate and punish North Korea by letting it in from the cold.
Why did he do it? He and Hillary saw a chance for positive publicity. She, newly consigned to the inside pages of the newspaper and he, entirely absent from them, chaffed at their irrelevance and jumped at the chance to get back into the limelight.
Obama may or may not have initiated the trip, but he doubtless knew of it and approved it. Why did Obama OK it? In the upside down world of Obama's foreign policy, the more a nation is our enemy, the more he feels he as to show it kindness, love, warmth and support. The more it is our ally (Colombia, Israel, Britain, Honduran democracy advocates) the more he must give it the cold shoulder. He calls it engagement. It is really something more than appeasement but, one hopes, less than disloyalty.
But, we suspect, Obama had a more sinister motivation for letting the stunt unfold: He wanted to change the subject from health care. He knows that he is getting clobbered in the national debate. He sees his approval dropping and is watching as the elderly coalesce against his health care initiative.
So, what better way to drown out his critics of August than to pull of a spectacular hostage release? Obama would gladly punt during August, distract the nation, and then stealthily pass health care in September.
He is terrified of August. August is when legislators discover where their districts are located and go home to get an earful from those they represent. Increasingly, it seems the month will be particularly rocky for Democratic advocates of his health care proposals. He would do anything to change the subject.
But we cannot let him.