Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department, had some rather nice things to say about the reclusive Kim Jong Il, the dictatorial leader of North Korea who died a few days ago. She had met the rogue dictator, Josh Rogin reports, when Sherman "served as State Department counselor and North Korea policy coordinator under former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, [and had] traveled to Pyongyang with Albright in 2000."
An NPR obituary quotes the high ranking State Department official as saying that "He was smart and a quick problem-solver," and that "[Kim Jong Il] is also witty and humorous. Our overall impression was very different from the way he was known to the outside world."
Sherman sat next to Kim at a stadium to watch a huge festival of synchronized dancing. She says she turned to Kim and told him she had the sense that in some other life, he was a "great director."
"He clearly took such delight in putting these performances together," she says. "And he says, yes, that he cared about this a great deal and that he owned every Academy Award movie, he had watched them all, and he also had every film of Michael Jordan's NBA basketball games and had watched them as well."
Rather odd praise considering the North Korean regime is possibly the most evil in the world.
Wendy Sherman, now the No. 3 official in the State Department, who served as counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and accompanied her to North Korea, said in 2008: "He was smart, engaged, knowledgeable, self-confident, sort of the master-director of all he surveyed."
Ms. Albright met Mr. Kim in October 2000 in what turned out to be a futile effort to strike a deal with North Korea over limiting its missile program before President Bill Clinton left office.
"There was no denying the dictatorial state that he ruled," Ms. Sherman said. "There was no denying the freedoms that didn't exist. But at the time, there were a lot of questions in the U.S. about whether he was really in control, and we left with no doubt that he was."
When Ms. Albright and Ms. Sherman sat down to talk through a 14-point list of concerns about North Korea's missile program, "he didn't know the answers to every question, but he knew a lot more than most leaders would -- and he was a conceptual thinker," Ms. Sherman added.