HANG TIME, Texas – Let’s just say the quaint notion of Felix and Oscar as The Oddest Couple went straight out the window the moment that Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un exchanged hugs. As bizarre meetings go, it wouldn’t have been out of place at the Star Wars Cantina.
Rodman: “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”
Never mind that Kim rules over one of the most reclusive countries in world, a place that during Rodman’s NBA playing days would never have tolerated his iconoclastic lifestyle.
Bridal gowns? Leather-and-chain ensembles? Tattoos? Lip and ear rings? In the Peoples Republic of Korea, the runway fashion has perennially run toward the ultimate in “throwback jerseys,” military gray.
If NBA commissioner David Stern’s rule was always considered to be a bit dictatorial for the Hall of Famer, what might he have thought of life under the supreme leader’s Kim dynasty — including his father and grandfather — where “technical fouls” may have meant trips to a work camp, or worse?
Yet here we are in these early days of the 21st century when the intransigence of American politics brings government to a halt and is no less a comical sight than Kim and Rodman sharing yuks and sushi as they watch the Harlem Globetrotters play.
So with North Korea occasionally sending up test missiles over the Sea of Japan and constantly rattling its sabers at the United States, maybe it makes perfect sense to send in Rodman under the clownish cover of the Washington Generals where the other Washington generals have failed to make headway.
Wouldn’t it be a kick if The Worm turned out to be a mole? At the very least, it would be a very memorable photo op to see Rodman show up at the Pentagon for a debriefing wearing more metal on his face than the Joint Chiefs of Staff have medals on their chests.
According to Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger of the New York Times, the U.S. government might welcome any insights that Rodman could provide into Kim’s personality and the North Korean regime.
And while the choice of Mr. Rodman might seem odd to some — he is known for cross-dressing and was visiting a conservative nation where long hair for men and short skirts for women are forbidden — Mr. (Bill) Richardson said in an interview on Friday that it was not surprising given Mr. Kim’s love of basketball. (Mr. Richardson said he was asked by North Korean officials in recent months to persuade Michael Jordan to visit.)
Even though Mr. Rodman is no diplomat, Mr. Richardson said the visit could be valuable given the lack of good intelligence about Mr. Kim, a man whose nuclear arsenal and visceral anti-Americanism makes him a threat.
“Any information about Kim Jong-un, his mannerisms, his ability to speak English, his personal assessment, is valuable,” said Mr. Richardson. “He is their leader, and in our visit, he had lots of support.”
The State Department was not nearly so sanguine. Despite questions about the trip and whether the government would debrief Mr. Rodman on his return, a department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, did not suggest a visit to Foggy Bottom was in the offing.
“We haven’t been in touch with this party at all,” he told reporters Thursday, leaving out Mr. Rodman’s name. “If there are Americans who after traveling in North Korea want to get in touch with us or have something to share with us, we take the phone calls.”
So did Rodman go into Pyongyang with a nose ring microphone or a spy camera implanted in a gold tooth?
Looks like we’ll have to watch the upcoming series produced by Vice Media for HBO to find out if he’s Agent 0091.
Rodman. Dennis Rodman. He’s always liked everything shaken and stirred.