by John Stevenson
For starters, let me say that this is neither an endorsement nor a defense of President Trump’s public declarations on Kim Jong Un’s missile rattling. Instead, it is a call for a bit more perspective and balanced view on the part of critics of those declarations.
The statements causing the critics to reach for the smelling salts are that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if they continue their provocations, and later that “military solutions are now fully in place…locked and loaded.”
Just for a bit of historical perspective, Trump’s immediate predecessor President Obama, in an April 2016 interview with CBS host Charlie Rose, called North Korea erratic and irresponsible. He went on to say “We could obviously destroy North Korea with our arsenals” but that doing so would have negative consequences for our ally South Korea. The North Koreans were none too pleased with Obama’s statement, but it drew no criticism from the American press or politicians.
In addition, in 1993 then-President Clinton said that if North Korea were to develop and use an atomic weapon “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate” and “it would mean the end of their country as they know it.” The North Korean government was outraged, but for the American press and politicians, this declaration was a snoozer.
So how have the critics responded to Trump’s statements? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered that Trump’s words were “recklessly belligerent and demonstrate a grave lack of appreciation for the…nuclear situation.” Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein called Trump’s statements “bombastic.” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer labeled Trump’s words “reckless rhetoric.”
Even Senator John McCain got in on the fun: “I take exception to the president’s comments because you got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do…in other words the old walk softly but carry a big stick…because all it’s going to do is bring us closer to some kind of serious confrontation.” Perhaps McCain had forgotten that, in his 2008 presidential campaign, he had regaled a rally crowd by briefly singing the “Barbra Ann” knock-off---“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
So regardless of how you view Trump’s tough talk, the inconsistency of his critics reeks of hypocrisy or at least of selective amnesia.
There’s even a move afoot in the Congress to pass a prohibition against Trump taking military action against North Korea. I am not often given to quoting Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. But I think his counsel in this case is worth consideration. Dershowitz opposes any congressional effort to impede the President in his use of force against North Korea.
Dershowitz says such a move “interferes with the President’s right as commander in chief to make decisions affecting the national security of the United States….I think we ought to take a deep breath and wait and see how it plays out.”
In this situation, the critics should not try to restrain the President---instead they should restrain themselves. Less of the vapors. Dershowitz has it right.