For reasons that still aren't entirely clear, Donald Trump interrupted his vacation this week to announce that he'd respond to North Korean threats with "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Soon after, White House aides quietly tried to walk back the president's saber-rattling, throwing water on the simmering fire.
Which apparently led Trump to reach for the lighter fluid. Speaking yesterday from one his golf resorts, the president said -- three times -- that his "fire and fury" comments perhaps "wasn't tough enough." Asked what would be tougher than "fire and fury," he responded, "Well, you'll see. You'll see."
Determined to escalate matters a little more, Trump turned to Twitter this morning.
"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," Trump tweeted Friday morning. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"Moments later, he retweeted a message from the U.S. Pacific Command's official Twitter account, stating that "#USAF B-1B Lancer #bombers on Guam stand ready to fulfill USFK's #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so."
Obviously, there's nothing helpful about provocative posturing like this, but it's not altogether clear what the president is saying. Trump wants everyone to believe "military solutions" are "fully in place, locked and loaded," but what exactly does that mean? Which "solution" to which problem? Because if the president is suggesting the United States military is "fully in place" in preparation for a conflict with a nuclear-armed enemy, that's not entirely true.
We certainly have extensive military resources in the region, but it'd take time and resources to get "fully in place" for a war, and that hasn't happened -- at least not yet -- and this is an inopportune moment for another round of hapless Trump bluffing.
But putting this in the larger context, the president's dangerous morning messages served as a reminder that Trump really isn't getting any better at doing this job.
Think about what we've seen just over the last couple of days. For example, Trump thought it'd be a good idea to begin a feud with his own party's Senate majority leader. He made claims about the nation's nuclear stockpile that were wrong to the point of delusion. The president also thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of American diplomats from Russia. He told reporters he's "honored" when he sees White House aides "fighting" for his "love."
All the while, he casually winged it with North Korea, creating a burgeoning nuclear crisis that could've easily been avoided.
These developments haven't unfolded over months; these are events from the last 48 hours.
I think there's a conventional wisdom that Trump, simply by virtue of being in office, will gradually grow as a leader. He'll listen, he'll learn, and he'll mature. This line of wishful thinking became more pronounced once retired Gen. John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff, prompting many observers to say, "See? This is the pivot. Trump World is poised to become less demented and more disciplined."
It took almost no time at all for those hopes to disappear -- in part because they were misguided in the first place. Trump isn't going to get better, and now is probably a good time to stop waiting for the growth that will never occur.
This is who Trump is. This is the reality we live in now. Holding out hope that he'll become a responsible adult is a fool's errand. Last November, 63 million Americans thought it'd be a good idea to put a television personality in the world's most difficult job -- Trump has a map he'd love to show you -- and elections really do have consequences.