For North Korea to use American prisoners as chits to obtain visits by former U.S. presidents — and for ex-presidents to play this game — is quite horrendous enough. But visits from Carter are cheap; to all appearances, it’s hardly worth Kim’s while to summon Carter for another potential prisoner-release. All concerned have been-there, done-that. Most likely, Kim has something else in mind. So, apparently, does Carter, whose initial 1994 pilgrimage to Pyongyang engendered the “Agreed Framework” nuclear freeze deal in which the West poured aid and fuel into North Korea, and began building Kim two modern nuclear reactors — while North Korea cheated on the deal. At a time when communist states were crumbling, and the old Soviet subsidies had vanished, the Carter-inspired Agreed Framework helped dignify and sustain Kim, as he consolidated power inherited from his late father. Instead of collapsing, North Korea’s totalitarian regime carried on. The regime starved to death an estimated one million or more of its own people while Kim poured resources into missile and nuclear-weapons development, and purveyed these delights to the Middle East.
But Carter thought he’d done the world a great favor. And last November, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, he made it clear that he’s raring to repeat his 1994 feat of useful-idiot nuclear brokering with Pyongyang. Enough already. If Carter wants to play U.S. envoy to North Korea, then let’s see him go the official route, including a White House nomination and the chance for American voters to witness a full review of his foreign policy record at a public confirmation hearing. At the very least, it might help remind the White House that a Jimmy Carter stamp on foreign policy is no asset, heading into the 2012 election.