North Korea: What the Neocons Got Right

IN THE NEWS: Caroline Kennedy tapped for Japan ambassador … Responding to North Korea’s provocations … Budget nominee gets hearing date … Woman considered for FBI Director … 6 politically incorrect House members … Egypt’s Jon Stewart undeterred by arrest


North Korea: What the Neocons Got Right

The neoconservatives got an awful lot wrong over the last decade. But they also got a few things right—namely, that a country's behavior is usually determined by the nature of the regime. Democracies behave toward the outside world in one way, dictatorships quite another. And no better proof exists than North Korea.

In recent days, responding to U.N. sanctions, North Korea has announced a “state of war” with South Korea, and the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, appeared in front of a map titled "Plans to Attack the Mainland U.S."  In response, the Obama administration has shifted more warships to the region. 

So if anyone had any remaining doubts, they can now be laid to rest: Nothing has changed inside North Korea. Over there, it is still 1953, and we're not just talking about Kims. The Obama administration had sought to push the North Korean problem to the side with a policy of "strategic patience." But there is little patience of any kind left. Is regime change back on the table? Read more

Michael Hirsh


CAROLINE KENNEDY TO BE JAPAN ENVOY. Caroline Kennedy, who threw her family’s name behind President Obama early in the 2008 campaign, will be named ambassador to Japan, The Washington Post reports. The appointment has been long-rumored. Kennedy’s husband is reportedly not planning to uproot to Tokyo with her. Read more

WASHINGTON, SEOUL RESPOND TO PYONGYANG’S PROVOCATIONS. As North Korea’s tone has grown increasingly belligerent in recent weeks, the U.S. Air Force deployed F-22 stealth fighters to South Korea on Sunday to participate in annual joint military exercises between the two allies, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has instructed her top military brass to respond decisively to any belligerence from the North. “If the North attempts any provocation against our people and country, you must respond strongly at the first contact with them without any political consideration,” she said. Read more

SANFORD, BOSTIC MAKE FINAL APPEARANCE AHEAD OF TUESDAY S.C. RUNOFF. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former Charleston County Council Member Curtis Bostic made their final joint appearance before Tuesday’s Republican House runoff on Hilton Head Island today, The Charleston Post and Courier reports. Despite leaving the Governor’s Mansion in disgrace, Sanford retains high name recognition that makes him a favorite to win the runoff and take on Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May 7 special general election. Read more

OMB NOMINEE BURWELL TO GET HEARING NEXT WEEK. A hearing on the nomination of Sylvia Burwell, Obama’s pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been set for next Tuesday, The Hill reports. Burwell will go before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. A recent meeting with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley reportedly went well, hinting that her confirmation is likely to proceed smoothly. Read more

3 WAYS WORK VISAS COULD STILL BLOW UP IMMIGRATION BILL. First, the positive: Big labor (i.e., the AFL-CIO) has agreed, for the first time in its history, to accept a new foreign-worker program for low-skilled jobs such as in construction, food service, and janitorial work—in many ways the mainstay of union membership. Then comes the harder part. Business groups were not willing to sign off as quickly and publicly as labor did. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a key Senate negotiator, made sure to walk back from news of the deal on Sunday, saying reports of an agreement on work visas were premature. National Journal’s Fawn Johnson explains how work visas could stymie reform. Read more

THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT 6: CONTROVERSY-PRONE HOUSE MEMBERS. Rep. Don Young's ethnically charged reference to Hispanic ranch workers as "wetbacks" on an Alaska radio program was politically incorrect, but he's far from the only House member to court controversy. National Journal’s Michael Catalini rounds up a half-dozen members who have a tendency to provoke raised eyebrows and headlines. Read more

GREENBACKS AWAIT LEW’S LOOPY SIGNATURE. A month into his tenure, Treasury Secretary’s Jacob Lew’s distinctive signature is not yet gracing the latest U.S. bills coming off the presses, The Washington Post reports. Instead, new bills still bear the more adult signature of former Secretary Timothy Geithner. Treasury says it takes 18 weeks to get a new secretary’s signature onto dollar bills. Read more

EGYPTIAN JON STEWART UNDETERRED BY ARREST. Bassem Youssef, described as Egypt’s Jon Stewart for his satirical look at the country’s Islamist rulers, remains undeterred after five hours of interrogation by government authorities on Sunday, CBS News reports. Youssef turned himself in the day after an arrest warrant was issued on charges of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Youssef, who was released following interrogation, said that if the move was designed to intimidate him into toning it down, it failed. “We are actually going to take it to even higher levels, we're going to take it through the roof,” he said. Read more

FIRST-EVER WOMAN AS FBI DIRECTOR? The Washington Post reports that a search for a successor for FBI Director Robert Mueller is underway and that “one of several people under consideration, according to current and past administration officials, is Lisa Monaco, who left a senior post at the Justice Department this month to become President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser.” The White House wants a quick process so the nominee can be confirmed before Congress recesses for summer. Other candidates include former prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Read more

AIRPORTS GO TO COURT TO BLOCK CUTS. Small regional airports in Illinois, Washington state, and Florida have filed suit in federal court to block the FAA’s decision to cut funding to air-traffic control towers while “accusing the agency of violating federal law meant to ensure major changes at airports do not erode safety,” the Associated Press reported. Despite the tower closures, a result of across-the-board sequester cuts, many airports will remain open. Meanwhile, The Washington Postexplains how the Agriculture Department beat the sequester by getting $55 million to help meat production. Read more


OBAMA TO HOST SINGAPORE PRIME MINISTER. On Tuesday, the president will welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore to the White House. The United States and Singapore have long economic and security ties, “and our strategic partnership reflects a shared commitment to working together to ensure the continued peace, stability, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region,” according to a White House release. The president will discuss a broad range of strategic and economic issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.


"I have an illicit relationship with two guys named Ben and Jerry. That is enjoyable." -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker (ABC News).


SIDD FINCH: THE BEST, MOST MYSTERIOUS PITCHER THAT NEVER WAS. Twenty-eight years ago today, legendary sportswriter George Plimpton introduced the world to Sidd Finch, the “somewhat eccentric mystic” whose fastball clocked in at 168 miles per hour and whose pitching motion reminded one player “of the extraordinary contortions that he remembered of Goofy’s pitching in one of Walt Disney’s cartoon classics.” Finch flummoxed everyone by rigorously practicing yoga and demurring on the details of his time abroad since dropping out of Harvard nearly a decade before. The 28-year-old had surfaced with the New York Mets during spring training, and Plimpton had uncovered the secret. The problem was, Finch wasn’t real. He was Plimpton’s April Fools’ Day concoction. And for years, countless Sports Illustrated readers have been buying it. Read more


OBAMA’S ON A ROLL! Obama hit a cold streak on the basketball court on Sunday (2-for-22 shooting), but he was still on a (Easter egg) roll during the White House holiday festivities on the South Lawn, which included 30,000 people and required a total of 19,000 eggs. USA Today has photos of the event. See it here


FIVE TO FOLLOW ON TWITTER: NORTH KOREA. With the North Korean rhetoric heating up, here are five people to help you follow and analyze the events on Twitter. 

  • @SteveHerman: Herman is The Voice of America Northeast Asia bureau chief, covering the Korean Peninsula and Japan. If you’re looking for frequent updates, he’s a go-to person.
  • @adamcathcart: Cathcart is a lecturer in Asian History at Queen's University Belfast (UK) and chief editor of (“A simple, but inescapably difficult, question about Korean conflict from RTE's @englishrachel: ‘Why is this happening now?’”)
  • @AlastairGale: Gale is Korea bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones and a frequent tweeter. (“Meeting of North Korean Worker's Party central committee today decided as follows: We're sticking with our nukes and crappy economy, thanks.”)
  • @sangwonyoon: A reporter in Seoul forBloomberg News, Sang covers South and North Korea.  (“Last update of the day: #KimJongUn Calls Atomic Weapons Top Priority as Inter-Korea Tensions Rise”)
  • @Max_Fisher:A foreign-affairs blogger at The Washington Post, Fisher has a sense of humor and was recently called out by the North Korean media over an “absurd” post he wrote.

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