President Trump’s vigorous response to North Korea’s threats, and the various reactions to the president’s language, created a teachable moment for understanding how we got to this foreign policy crisis––through a combination of short-sighted partisanship with persistent bad ideas about how to deal with international aggressors.
Trump’s comments about responding to North Korea’s aggression “with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” and his subsequent doubling down by saying that the threat “wasn’t tough enough” and our military was “locked and loaded,” were chum for the Democrats who reflexively condemn anything Trump says. “Bombastic” (Senator Dianne Feinstein), “unhinged” (Representative Eliot Engel) “bluster” (Susan Rice), “provocative” (Senator Ben Cardin), “reckless” (Senator Chuck Shumer) are typical examples. Most revealing of their “unhinged” partisanship is the comment of DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, who said of Trump, “Kim Jong Un, the world always thought he was not a responsible leader. Well, he is acting more responsibly than this guy is.”
But attacking a Republican president’s rhetoric is standard operating procedure for Democrats seeking partisan advantage, from the scorn heaped on Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” to the equal contempt for George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.” NeverTrump Republicans should remember that no matter how decorous a Republican’s rhetoric, he will still be smeared as an “unhinged,” Neanderthal war-monger with an itchy trigger-finger.
But as usual, what is sauce for the Republican goose never is for the Democrat gander. In April 2014, while on a visit to South Korea Obama said that the U.S. “will not hesitate to use our military might” when it came to defending allies. Or how about when Bill Clinton issued the same threat in 1993, telling the North that if they attacked “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate,” that such an attack “would mean the end of their country as they know it,” and that “they would pay a price so great that the nation would probably not survive as it is known today”?
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