Posted: Mon March 4, 2013 10:42PM; Updated: Mon March 4, 2013 10:42PM
Michael Rosenberg
Michael Rosenberg>VIEWPOINT

Dennis Rodman's North Korea trip a poorly-crafted joke

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Kim Jong-un; Dennis Rodman
Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman watched a basketball exhibition together last week in North Korea.
Photo courtesy of Vice for Reuters/SI

If you want to annoy a relentless publicity whore, dismiss his entire existence in a single sentence. Like this: Dennis Rodman is a desperate and pathetic character who will do anything to get noticed, probably to make up for the fact that his father had dozens of kids and ignored him, so Dennis has to stand out any way he can.

I was reminded of this again this week, when Rodman visited North Korea, presumably because he heard North Korean women are hot. Rodman gleefully allowed himself to be used as a publicity prop by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who runs one of the world's most brutal regimes, but hold on, folks, breaking news from Dennis Rodman!

"He loves basketball," Rodman reported back to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. "I said Obama loves basketball. Let's start there."

What a great idea! Why didn't President Obama think of this?

Rodman also said of North Korea's dictator: "He said: I don't want to do war. He said that to me."

(We pause for a moment to imagine that this was all an elaborate plot by the CIA: Dennis Rodman gets Kim Jong-un drunk and asks if he wants to "do war." What do you think? I lean no, but if Rodman gets face time with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I will re-evaluate.)

This is all sort of hilarious, except for the fact that North Korea has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of its own citizens, according to Human Rights Watch. And tens of thousands of North Koreans have starved to death, but the government refuses to acknowledge the problem. Kim Jong-un is continuing the oppressive rule of his father, Kim Jong-il.

Yeah. It's funny, except for all that.

Rodman's idiotic comments were not surprising. If you send a clown to the international stage, you get a clown show.

Rodman is not malicious. I doubt Rodman gave 10 seconds of thought to the hundreds of thousands of people being tortured. Rodman thrives on getting people to say, "Whoa, he's different." This, in part, explains his basketball excellence. While most players of his skill level would try to fulfill conventional roles, Rodman focused on rebounding and playing defense, and he did both as well as anybody of his generation. He actually seemed to enjoy not scoring, because ... whoa, that was different.

This is why he wore a wedding dress, and posed on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a kinky outfit. It's why he said he wanted to play his last game naked, and why I once saw him answer a question from a reporter (the late, great Terry Armour of the Chicago Tribune) from the bench while his team was playing.

Many NBA stars have partied too hard and slept with scores of women. When Rodman did it, he felt the need to tell the world about it. Repeatedly.

Tell him that nobody else goes to North Korea, and he'll be on the next plane, without even asking why.

Hey, Rodman is what he is. Usually, he is harmless. I'm sure he didn't mean to cozy up to a ruthless, brutal regime; this was just Dennis being Dennis.

"He's a good guy to me," Rodman told Stephanopoulos. "As a person to person, he's my friend. I don't condone what he does."

In other words: Let's party (Korean word for "dude")! This sums up Rodman perfectly. Kim Jong-un is threatening to build a nuclear arsenal that should scare every human on the planet, but hey, he sat next to Dennis, and he likes basketball! The fact that he is such an outcast among world leaders only makes him more appealing to Rodman.

Again, this is Rodman. I'm not even surprised. My question is this:

What is wrong with us?

This is Dennis Rodman, people. He makes Shaq seem like John Kerry. If he finds his way to North Korea as part of a basketball exhibition, can't we just be appalled and move on? Why is Stephanopoulos interviewing Rodman like he might have some insight into the North Korean leader? There is a reason nobody has drafted Rodman to run for the U.S. senate.

Maybe, just by writing this, I'm part of the problem. I can see that. But I tried to ignore Rodman's visit at first, and then it just got bigger and bigger, and it's pretty clear we just can't look away. Dennis Rodman's comments, by any measure, were ignorant and sickening, reason enough to hope Rodman keeps his mouth shut for the next decade or two. It's hard to laugh at a clown when he is sitting next to a murderer.

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