Everyone better hope that someone in the White House has some kind of plan, some kind of strategy.
After all, these are nukes we’re talking about.
A sweet moment of respite from talk of atomic death arrived early Wednesday with the airwaves still full of President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” bluster and dictator Kim Jong Un’s counter-threat against Guam.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came forward and said “Americans should sleep well at night.”
Aboard a plane coming back from Asia, Tillerson said: “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”
That is, even if it was just learned the North Koreans now had miniaturized warheads to fit their missiles.
That is, even if this came from anonymous sources that nobody in the leak-vexed administration denied.
The president was just trying to be firm and clear with Kim, explained Tillerson, the former oil executive from Texas.
Ok then. An optimist who wished to believe in the sanity of our side could now say the Americans have a good-cop, bad-cop strategy — that they are trying to prod the nutty adversary into changing behavior, or at least into taking warnings seriously.
Then came another Trump’s misleading, confidence-challenging tweet.
“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” he declared.
The arsenal hasn’t changed since January. His predecessor, Barack Obama, launched a trillion-dollar, 30-year modernization effort, now under review.
Then came confirmation that top Pentagon brass did not sign off in advance on the most explosive words in memory from any U.S. president.
“General [John] Kelly and others on the [national security] team were well aware of the tone of the statement of the president prior to delivery,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The words were his own.”
So here we stand. Trump drew a verbal red line; North Korea crossed it with another threat. Guam’s governor was busy reassuring people. The Dow and Nasdaq and S&P all dipped, but defense stocks were doing well.
Surely the North Korea nuke concerns grew under the previous three presidents, so maybe Trump can’t be entirely blamed for the status quo. That doesn’t help the current situation, but it may make some people feel better.
Trump warned in an NBC interview in 1999 that the U.S. should act against Pyongyang to stem the possibility of nuclear capability.
“They’re laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies,” he told interviewer Tim Russert.
“You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City and Washington? Or do you want to do something now?”
That doesn’t shed light on what’s ahead — except perhaps to give Trump a new nickname, “Fire and Fury,” reminiscent of President Zachary Taylor, known as “Old Fuss and Feathers.”
Or to put it in the context of a half-century ago: Are we looking at “peace with honor,” or “all the way with Curtis LeMay?” (Look that one up if you have to).
For now, you’re just left with the simple concern that somebody better have a plan or at least get one soon.