What the Hell Is Wrong With Dennis Rodman?

Even by the standards of clueless celebrities this is dumb.

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Dennis Rodman greets the media as he waits to get inside a car outside a Pyongyang hotel on his way to a basketball practice session between North Korean and US players on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Rodman came to the North Korean capital with a team of USA basketball stars for an exhibition game on Jan. 8, the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Dennis Rodman greets the media as he waits to get inside a car outside a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.

There's a certain amount of rope given to various celebrity types in the stupid-behavior arena. Miley Cyrus can stick out her tongue and twerk like a streetwalker and she still gets something of a pass, since she's a young singer who presumably has some tortured-artist quality that interferes with her judgment. Actors trying to sound smart tweet remarkably ignorant things before someone convinces them to take down the post. And someone, hopefully, will tell Steven Seagal that just because he looks like a tough guy and played one in the movies, it doesn't mean he's capable of dealing with budgets and union negotiations and everything else one needs to be governor of Arizona, a job Seagal has indicated he may want.

But there are times when being an athlete or an entertainer isn't an excuse to be politically naïve and morally bankrupt. This is why someone needs to take the dangerously self-promoting Dennis Rodman aside and ask a simple question: What the hell is wrong with you?

[ See a collection of political cartoons on North Korea.]

Rodman is in North Korea, hanging out with the dictator Kim Jong Un, who's turning 31 soon. From the standpoint of pure cruelty and paranoia, the young Kim makes his late father look like a kitty cat. He presides over one of the most repressive regimes in the world; he's had people killed and basically has shown no redeeming qualities. He's not some folk hero, some misguided but sincere populist who has irritated the U.S. government because he's a leftist or wants to nationalize industries American companies want a piece of. He's actually dangerous, and worse, unpredictably so.

Rodman, who has displayed no knowledge of world affairs, human rights or diplomacy, has decided the best way to deal with a murderous dictator is to put on a little basketball game for Kim. Rodman has brought some of his former NBA buddies to North Korea for a friendly pickup game with local players. It's an insult not just to the people who are trying to rein in the regime, but to the families of everyone who has been killed by Kim and his people. It's childish, deliberately provocative and isn't really meant to enhance the life of anyone but the constantly attention-seeking Rodman. The former basketball pro said:

My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans. The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics.

We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.

[ Check out 2013: The Year in Cartoons]

Politics? Is that what Rodman thinks this is about? Maybe he should talk to some of the citizens Kim won't want him to meet, those who family members were imprisoned in labor camps or executed. Or maybe he could ask to meet Kim's family. Of course, that's a smaller clan now that Kim has killed his uncle and others (including those who were advisers to Kim's father) whom Kim felt were not to be trusted.

The initial presumption, after the announcement of the uncle's death, was that he had been shot by a firing squad. The story that came out in the last week – reported by a Beijing-affiliated newspaper in Hong Kong, and repeated by the Straits Times in Singapore – was that the uncle was stripped naked and torn apart by a pack of hungry dogs Kim had starved five days for the occasion.

The suggestion that the U.S. is somehow being intransigent by not kow-towing to Kim is absurd. Playing basketball for Kim is akin to endorsing his behavior. And while Rodman may enjoy the delicious bad-boy image it gives him, it's still stupid. Even for a celebrity we don't expect to know any better.