Opinion: “Fire and fury …,” signifying nothing

(AP)

We used to laugh at the clownish, buffoonish rhetoric that came out of North Korea, with its dire threats to wreak catastrophic destruction on its enemies. “If the United States dares tease our nation with a nuclear weapon and sanctions,” NK officials said just this week, “the mainland United States will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire.”

I mean, only cartoon villains and numbskulls talk like that, right?

Right.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” a grim-faced President Trump told reporters Tuesday, his arms hugging himself tight. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. (Kim Jong Un) has been very threatening, beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Taken on its face, that’s pretty extraordinary: If North Korea dares to continue its bellicose language, we’ll go nuclear? And as it turns out, North Korea does indeed dare. A few hours later, it strode across Trump’s newly drawn red line by announcing that it was considering a missile strike against the U.S. territory of Guam, warning that it would create an “enveloping fire” on the island where important U.S. military bases are located.

On Wednesday morning, Trump then returned fire:

The problem is that statement isn’t true, and anybody with any degree of knowledge on the issue knows it isn’t true. Our nuclear arsenal is certainly massive, capable of wiping North Korea off the map many times over. However, it is by no means “far stronger and more powerful than ever before” thanks to Trump. It hasn’t changed even a whit from when Trump took office in January.

Yes, a long-term, trillion-dollar modernization effort is underway, but it began at the direction of President Obama and has yet to have an impact. Yes, Trump signed an executive order in January telling the Pentagon to study whether our nuclear deterrent is “modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats,” but if that study is actually underway, it has yet to produce a single recommendation, let alone be acted upon.

In short, Trump is once again lying. His statement is bluster and bluff, and what’s more it is easily exposed as bluster and bluff. And that creates a variety of difficulties.

1.)  Bluff and bluster traps the bluffer: If you read through the leaked transcript of Trump’s private conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, you saw Trump trying to squirm his way out of his campaign promise to build that infamous wall and make Mexico pay for it. The wall was the “the least important thing we are talking about,” he admitted privately to Peña Nieto, but he also admitted that because of his campaign rhetoric, he had to keep pretending to demand it. The only person whose freedom of movement is affected by that wall is Trump himself.

Likewise, when Trump threatens nuclear armageddon, it increases the pressure to carry through with that threat, or at least pretend to do so. And that’s not something that you can take lightly.

 

2.) It further undercuts Trump’s already shredded credibility: U.S. Sen. John McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Trump’s language Tuesday but also brushed it aside, saying he no longer puts much credence in the president’s statements anyway. American voters are increasingly coming to the same conclusion, and after watching Trump for six months, foreign leaders are too. This American president talks loudly, but he carries a tiny stick.

3.) It’s one thing for a paranoid, highly isolated pariah state such as North Korea to indulge itself in such childish rhetoric. We’re the United States, the leader of the free world, the guarantor of global stability. We’re supposed to be the responsible party in this situation, the sane and reasonable one. But that’s not how we’re acting, nor is it how we’re perceived.

“The most disruptive force in the world today is the United States of America,” says Michael Hayden, CIA director under President George W. Bush and one of a number of Republican foreign-policy officials appalled at the incompetence of this administration.

4.) Bluster can be useful when used as part of a well-thought-out plan. In North Korea’s case, for example, bluster is clearly a conscious national strategy, and they use it well. In Trump’s case, though, this is bluster attempting to substitute for a plan. This is bluster because it feels good, bluster because you have no idea what else to do.

And by this point in the game, everybody knows it.

Reader Comments 0

2598 comments
CrackerBox
CrackerBox

Hey Bookman, just substitute "Trump" where you see "Clinton"....


CLINTON'S WARNING IRKS NORTH KOREA Published: July 13, 1993 

TOKYO, July 12— The North Korean Government accused President Clinton today of provoking it with threats of war after he warned that the United States would retaliate if North Korea developed nuclear arms. 

The statement by the Communist Government of Kim Il Sung came just hours after it handed over what it said were remains of 17 American soldiers killed in the Korean War. 

On his weekend visit to South Korea, President Clinton warned that if North Korea developed and used an atomic weapon, "we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate."

"It would mean the end of their country as they know it," he said.

quickdigits
quickdigits

I'm a Trump Supporter, But Whatever Happened To State of the Union Addresses?? Trump is a Coward By Hiding Behind His Tweets and He is Acting Anything BUT Presidential. It's  High Time He Becomes The Respectable President We Voted For and Speak Directly To The American People!! These are Dangerous Times And Trump Needs To Talk To Us and Quit This Childish Behavior of Tweeting Every Day!! 

dhowardporter
dhowardporter

I wonder why he has so many microphones in front of him...there is only one station in North Korea.

Buzz-Off
Buzz-Off

Jay,

What is crazier, saying, "we can destroy you" or "we can bring fire and fury"? I've watched the video several times today of Obama saying "destroy", but the fake news including Your column totally ignores that fact. I'm starting to believe the real nutcases are journalists.

Buzz-Off
Buzz-Off

Jay Bookman,

Did you write this type of biased column when Obama said, "we will destroy North Korea if they...."? Amazing how the liberal writers conveniently forget the facts.

Blanco
Blanco

Trump says that the USA must spend trillions of dollars to upgrade our nuclear arsenal because Obama supposedly destroyed it (Didn't Ronald Reagan make the same ridiculous claim about Jimmy Carter?).  Rest assured that Trump will not raise taxes on the rich to pay for this.  He will announce that we can no longer afford subsidies for health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

North Korea has theirs; we have ours.


Unfortunately it DOES signify something:   That we have a crazy #ss president who has no idea how to do anything but lie, boast, and threaten. It has worked in his life so far, but now he threatens ALL our safety, and that of the world.


And he chose as a VP a guy who YEARNS for the end times!

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Breaking news, Representative Hank Johnson's office just released a notice that the Representative along with his former aid Jon Ossoff will leave today to travel the Guam where they will direct the moving of the island eastward out of range of NK missiles. Democrats breath a sigh of relief and point out real leadership and problem solving from their side.  Happy Days are here again.

MissDaisyCook
MissDaisyCook

Opinion:  "Jay Bookman.......," signifying nothing

USMC2841
USMC2841

Trump should just call NorK the J.V. squad and hope they go away.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@USMC2841 To USMC from USAF guy, GREAT POST! Love it! Come on libby's please respond!

YouLibs
YouLibs

@USMC2841 

Well, except they aren't.

You do understand that ISIL didn't even have airplanes, much less nukes and ICBM's. Do you get his point about JV now?



TomGaff
TomGaff

@YouLibs @USMC2841 Look, I understand about Barack's confusion about the JV thing. He may have been thinking of when he was a star on the JV basketball team, in his glory days?

TomGaff
TomGaff

It's been fun as usual, time for me to go watch some CNN! LOL

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

Trump is still trolling McConnell lol.Im sure McConnell wont forget this

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

Trump might be right but how many times have you seen the President troll the leader in Congress that's belong to the same party.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@BuckeyeGa In this particular case, Trump is right. McConnell should have had some sort of replacement plan in place ready to go. 


HE. HAD. 7. YEARS. 

TomGaff
TomGaff

@LogicalDude @BuckeyeGa Did the GOP not have a plan that made it to POTUS Obama's desk and he VETOED it? Notice how respectful I was to former POTUS OBama? Too bad, some of you can not refer to POTUS Trump the same way!

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Limit Orange Clown's right to use Nukes because he gets in a shouting  war with Kim Jung Il.



Demand that Ryan and  GOP allow HR 669 to proceed to a vote .


No preemptive use of   Nukes by deranged clown.


That Handel gal probably won't do it because she may upset  Trump.

Paul42
Paul42

Fan4500 can read an article about voter registration  but refuses to read an Atlantic article about options with North Korea?  Then whines and pouts when no one takes his 'but what about this, huh?" questions seriously?

So typical.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

@Paul42 I don't think Fan reads the multitude of research studies done that proves there is no rampant voter fraud in the US, either.

It's called a "bubble"

td1234
td1234

@Paul42 What options? Nuke them before they Nuke us. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@td1234 @Paul42


Not that easy. We don't want to Nuke unless absolutely necessary. Determining that is a lot of hard work. 

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

When is Huckabee-Sanders going to threaten NK with "far and fury" to give us all a good laugh?

Fan4500
Fan4500

Movie day, I'll leave you with this one.

LOL

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@Fan4500


Such irony. A meme about ignoring facts. Memes are mostly used to ignore facts.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Fan4500  I bet kammie's going to love this!  Kammies loves him some facebook memes.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

Why all the hysteria over Russian nukes?  Putin's not going to nuke us, with his minion, Donald in the WH.  Geez, come on!

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Finn-McCool @DownInAlbany Only hysteria on Russian nukes I've seen is from right wingers today. 


Not sure where else it's coming from unless it's a distraction from Trump's bluster about North Korean nukes. 

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Fan4500  And what does that mean sweetie?  That you know Trump is a buffoon and somehow you blame Obama?  

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Since Fan4500 appears to be so firmly willing to believe there is massive voter fraud in the US. Let's ask him/her point blank:

Who would be willing to risk going to jail or being deported in order to cast 1 measly little vote for some politician?

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

@Fan4500 @Finn-McCool But answer the question. Who would take the risk to cast a vote? How dumb would you have to be to risk everything to cast a single vote? or even 10 votes?

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Fan4500 @Finn-McCool  No sweetie. the kid was working on keeping a job not on committing actual voter fraud.  Its nuanced and thus likely beyond your capacity to comprehend.  

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

@Fan4500 @Finn-McCool And you are gullible enough to believe that is happening every day across this country?

You don't think maybe that is an outlier?

Fan4500
Fan4500

@DebbieDoRight Do your own research, there are cases of voter fraud also. I posted a article on registration fraud. Most of the progs here want to defend it or ignore it. Your choice, doesn't mean it's not happening. The young college student in VA just ruined his life, for the Democrats.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

I read your article. It said registration fraud. Did not say VOTER fraud. Did not give one instance of the fraudulent names that the guy registered showing up to vote.

Fan4500
Fan4500

@KUTGF @Fan4500 @Finn-McCool And that disputes the article I posted, how?


Just because he was caught in step 1, doesn't mean he wasn't planning on commiting voter fraud.

Why stop at step 1?


KUTGF
KUTGF

@Fan4500 @KUTGF @Finn-McCool  Just because you make up a step 2 with absolutely no evidence, does not make you right.  LOL

He got paid for the registrations.

But thanks for admitting you are making it all up without any evidence.  

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

Well, if there was one, then there must be millions more. RW logic.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

The greatest amoint of voter fraud is perpetrated by REPIGLICANS! Not democrats. There are multiple examples of this happening. Not millions and definitely not all democrat. Few Republicans.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@KUTGF @DownInAlbany @Fan4500 @Finn-McCool  THANK YOU!  I don't have a problem with voter registration when you get drivers licenses.  You, on the other hand, made the case for voter IDs.  Don't cha love it when a plan comes together?