Poor Dennis Rodman. The former NBA star got drunk and then suggested to CNN's Chris Cuomo that American Christian Kenneth Bae's imprisonment (15 years, including hard labor) was because he did something against the North Korean government, yet Rodman wouldn't say exactly what he thought Bae had done.
Bae was a tour guide operator who was imprisoned for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government.
Bae's family members were outraged and couldn't understand why Rodman--who is now apparently a buddy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un--didn't urge Un to release Bae. Instead, he sang Happy Birthday to the young general.
Rodman later apologized to Bae's family.
Could Rodman have made a difference?
Rev. Eric Foley of the Colorado-based ministry Seoul USA tells me that North Korean Christians don't want Rodman or any other Westerners coming to their country on official visits. That's because the North Korean government uses them for propaganda purposes, to brainwash their people into believing they have legitimacy on the world stage.
The visitors become as Karl Marx said, "Useful Idiots."
Rodman means well--he believes sports figures can help open doors of communication and cooperation just like ping-pong led to detente and an end to Chinese isolationism.
But there's a lot about North Korea that Rodman doesn't know, or chooses to ignore. Did he know that on the same day that he threw that basketball birthday bash for the supreme leader, Open Doors USA held their annual press conference in Washington, D.C., and announced that North Korea once again is the world's top persecutor of Christians?
Knowledgeable or not, he decided to go. When he arrived in Pyongyang he insisted he's not trying to save the world, and saving Bae isn't his job.
So, what is Rodman's job? Athletes spend hours viewing video tapes and learning the strategies of their opponents. Shouldn't he have taken the time to learn all he could about North Korea before staging an exhibition there?
Maybe he did, but didn't care. He could have made a difference for Bae, but instead of going for the 3-pointer, he passed the ball. Let someone else take the risk.
I guess sinking baskets comes easier for Dennis Rodman than being an advocate for a fellow American.
Ignorance is bliss.
For more on North Korean Christians, Dennis Rodman, and Kenneth Bae, watch my full interview with Seoul USA's Eric Foley.