When Donald Trump wasn't complaining about black athletes and Republican senators opposed to their party's far-right health care plan, the president was threatening war with North Korea. He said via Twitter yesterday:
"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"
It's the kind of presidential statement that deserves some clarity -- because it sounds as if Trump is prepared to destroy North Korea if he doesn't like the rhetoric from its leaders.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum noted in response, "My guess is that Trump is trying to goad Kim Jong-un into doing something provocative enough to justify a U.S. attack.... Alternatively, of course, Trump tweeted this because he's a childish buffoon who has no self-control and engages in schoolyard taunts with anyone he doesn't like."
That those appear to be the two most plausible explanations is unsettling.
And yet, here we are. Trump's tweet suggesting North Koreans may not be "around much longer" comes on the heels of the American president publicly calling Kim Jong-un a "madman" who is "killing his people," and who'll be "tested like never before."
That was soon followed by the president delivering a speech in Alabama in which he sounded indifferent about a diplomatic solution. "Maybe something gets worked out and maybe it doesn't," Trump said. "Personally, I'm not sure that it will. Other people like to say, 'Oh, we want peace.' You know, they've been saying now for 25 years, 'Oh, we want peace, we want peace.' And then he goes and just keeps going, going, going. Well, maybe something gets worked out and maybe it doesn't."
Days earlier, Trump delivered remarks to the United Nations' General Assembly, and publicly declared, "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."
What's more, it was just last month that Trump threw around rhetoric such as "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded," intensifying tensions for no particular reason. The crisis cooled only when the American president got distracted by something new.
But now that Trump has a new nickname for Kim Jong-un, the White House is back to taunting and antagonizing a rogue nuclear regime. A New York Times report this morning said that among diplomats and national security specialists, the American president's posturing has sparked a range of reactions ranging from "nervous disbelief to sheer terror."
No good can come of this.