The Last Word | March 04, 2013
>>> you want obama to one thing, call him.
>> he wants a call from president obama ?
>> that's right, he told me that. he said, if you can, dennis, i don't want to do war. he loves basketball. i'll say the 15i78 thing i said, obama loves basketball. let's start there, let's start there.
>> here's the white house 's oh, so serious response to freelance diplomat dennis rodman 's suggestion that the presiden dictator who starves the people of north korea .
>> the united states has direct channels of communications with the dprk. instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain the elites of that country. the north koreans should focus on the well being of its own people who have been starved, imprisoned and denied human rights . the united states has channels of communications directly, and those are the channels we choose to employ.
>> joining me now, brian shelter of the new york times and steve clemens, washington editor of the atlantic. brian, you got the story today from the new york times of exactly how dennis rodman got in the country. how did they do that?
>> they fought like diplomats, the advice, the staff who wanted to get back in north korea , they thought, what would the regime and north korea want? they love basketball, they love the chicago bulls , what about dennis rodman ? they brought him, they did an exhibition basketball game and we know the rest.
>> these were producers of a show -- an upcoming series on hbo that are trying to do this?
>> that's right.
>> hbo kicked in a little extra money to help may for the trip. they say this is a vice production, they're independent and doing their own thing.
>> i'm sure hbo wishes that show was premiering this week. steve clemens let's go to the rodman proposal. why shouldn't the president just pick up the phone and call this guy and try to get a conversation going?
>> well, look, there are two issues here, one is on the serious side, before the united states normalized with china, many years ago, under nixon, we had ping-pong diplomacy, that's what's been bouncing around in my mind while we scoff and mock about this incident. there are sometimes where these unusual moments give themselves and lend themselves to very unique moments of potential diplomacy. why this is the wrong moment is that north korea just had a third nuclear test , and there are many things that kim jong -un who's a new leader in north korea . everyone else is newer than he is, nonetheless, he could have issued through rodman or even by letter a very -- a more sophisticated note on how he would like to stand down on the nuclear front, stand down on some of the posturing on south korea . there are many things he could have done to make this serious. he's a pop culture guy, he's a young man. we have to ask ourselves, is he trying to do what he knows. as inadequate and silly as it sounds, maybe there's something deeper there. i don't think there is, but barack obama needs to respond to serious initiatives and not just the pop culture ones. and the leader of north korea needs to learn that.
>> here's what i don't get about these diplomatic niceties. why isn't this the best time to call, after north korea has done something that we really really don't want and we really want them to stop doing it. the soviet missiles were in cuba, and so president kennedy was communicating as directly with nikita khrushchev as he could. he didn't say, i'm not going to talk to him now, now that he's done something that bothers me.
>> the soviet union and the united states were two great powers vying for global control. north korea is a small state that exists through extortion, by misbehaving and trying to extract resources from other nations in the world by threatening the rest of the nation and wanting to be nice to get resources. you can't reward that behavior too quickly. i think barack obama is probably calling it right here by keeping some distance.
>> brian stelter , thank you very much for getting the story on how this all happened. thanks for joining us tonight. steve clemmons, thank you for joining us.
>> thank you.