Dennis Rodman made another trip to North Korea to visit his BFF, Kim Jong Un and that should have been the whole story. The main stream media couldn’t just it leave it there,though. They decided that Rodman’s foolishness was much more important than even he thinks he is and turned his latest display of bad taste into something much bigger. By doing so, they also managed to make him appear to be someone who actually matters to the rest of us back here in the States, and to the dictator he’s so fond of. You can’t read a news article or turn on the TV without some reporter opining on everything Rodman’s been up to. What they should have done is just let the guy go over there, play basketball and sing “Happy Birthday” to his bestie in complete silence.
Instead, they’ve dogged his every move and quoted every word as if he was a sort of ambassador, sent to leverage a peace accord with a man as crazy as he is. Maybe the polar vortex, or whatever you call this arctic blast that’s sent all of us scurrying to push up our thermostats, has frozen some of their brain cells but they’re making a mountain out of what should have been a very tiny molehill. CNN’s Chris Cuomo took some time out of his busy schedule to attempt an interview with Rodman, and the result would have been laughable if Cuomo hadn’t taken the damned thing so seriously. Driven by boredom or his own out of control ego, Cuomo thought he should ask they former NBA star about Kennth Bae, an American citizen imprisoned by North Korea on some rather questionable charges. Rodman, who’s never met a microphone or camera he didn’t like, began to expound on his views concerning a very delicate matter. He teetered a little to close to accusing Bae of crimes, by saying that Cuomo had no idea what Bae had done to the people of North Korea. I seriously doubt that Rodman has any real knowledge either, unless he’s been talking to Kim while drinking the propaganda Kool-Aid during their meetings.
Now some real damage has been done. Bae’s family is understandably distraught by Rodman’s comments. It didn’t have to happen, if only Cuomo had just taken a deep breath and realized that he was talking to Dennis Rodman, for chrissakes. Cuomo has spent much of the day congratulating himself, and basking in the afterglow of his interview, when he should be doing is apologizing – to us, to his colleagues and, most of all, to Kenneth Bae’s family. He started a firestorm and doesn’t even get it. Interviewing Dennis Rodman is no hard-hitting news. In fact, it’s probably the easiest story he’s ever fallen into. He got the reaction he wanted, maybe not the exact answers, but he had to know that Rodman would have something controversial to say. He delivered, as anyone worth their salt – okay, maybe not Chris Cuomo – should have known. Now we have a big mess on our hands.
Reporters are scrambling to their microphones and keyboards to excoriate Rodman for what he said, while heaping praise on Cuomo. They want Rodman to take responsibility for the trouble he’s caused, chastising him for not taking the opportunity to plead for Bae’s freedom. At one point, long ago, Rodman tweeted Kim, asking him to “do a solid” and release Bae, but that was met with silence and there’s no reason to think that conversation went anywhere since. As misguided as Rodman may be, as huge as his ego, it’s just not his job to be making any sort of deal with a foreign leader, especially one as prickly as Kim. That’s why we have a State Department, and better informed and equipped folks at places like the United Nations or Amnesty International. I, for one, don’t want Dennis Rodman to speak for me – on any level. He’s nothing but a washed-up has-been, looking for love in all the wrong places. Any attempts at “basketball diplomacy” on Rodman’s part are half-assed at best and certainly not sanctioned by the NBA or any U.S. officials. He’s on his own and doing a fine job at blundering his way through this disastrous relationship.
Knowing that, Cuomo, and others, stepped in it and there’s no way to take that interview back. Eventually, we’ll move on to other stories, like the GWB/Governor Christie brouhaha, for whatever that’s worth. Robert Gates’ book will stay in the headlines until a few people actually read it and realize it doesn’t say anything we don’t already know. The problem with the Rodman story is how it will resonate in North Korea and to Kim Jong Un. Maybe, by giving Rodman center stage, his real value will be misunderstood and blown all out of proportion, and there’ll be a sense that he really has some global significance, that his words have weight. So, for that, maybe people like Chris Cuomo should think twice before they ask questions about real issues when they’re interviewing someone as ridiculous as the likes of Dennis Rodman. In this case, Cuomo should have reined in his own self-interest and just ignored Rodman. All of us should. He just doesn’t matter.