The crisis we now find ourselves in has been exaggerated and mishandled by the Trump administration to a degree that is deeply worrying and dangerous.
From the start, the White House has wanted to look tough on North Korea.
.. In the early months of President Trump’s administration, before there could possibly have been a serious policy review, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the era of strategic patience with North Korea was over.
.. Last week, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that North Korea’s potential to hit the United States with nuclear weapons was an “intolerable” threat. Not North Korea’s use of weapons, mind you; just the potential.
.. So why do it? Because it’s Trump’s basic mode of action. For his entire life, Trump has made grandiose promises and ominous threats — and rarely delivered on any.
When he was in business, Reuters found,
- he frequently threatened to sue news organizations for libel, but the last time he followed through was 33 years ago, in 1984.
- Trump says that he never settles cases out of court. In fact, he has settled at least 100 times, according to USA Today.
..In his political life, he has followed the same strategy of bluster.
- In 2011, he said that he had investigators who “cannot believe what they’re finding” about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and that he would at some point “be revealing some interesting things.” He had nothing.
- During the campaign, he vowed that he would label China a currency manipulator,
- move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,
- make Mexico pay for a border wall and
- initiate an investigation into Hillary Clinton. So far, nada.
- After being elected, he signaled to China that he might recognize Taiwan. Within weeks of taking office, he folded.
- He implied that he had tapes of his conversations with then-FBI Director James B. Comey. Of course, he had none.
Does he think the North Koreans don’t know this?.. When it saw a far more threatening leader, Mao Zedong, pursuing nuclear weapons, it was even more cautious. Mao insisted that he had no fear of a nuclear war because China would still have more than enough survivors to defeat Western imperialists. And yet, successive U.S. administrations kept their cool... The secretary of state seems to have been telling Americans — and the world — to ignore the rhetoric, not of the North Korean dictator, but of his own boss, the president of the United States. It is probably what Trump’s associates have done for him all his life. They know that the guiding mantra for him has been not the art of the deal, but the art of the bluff.
“It was a trial balloon, but it didn’t work,” said Mexican economist Luis de la Calle, a trade expert who had been a senior negotiator on the pact. “Next time, nobody will believe it. People start to figure things out.”
But Mr. Trump said in the interview that he still holds his strongest card. “We’ll terminate Nafta if we’re unable to make a deal, but hopefully we won’t have to do that.”