Last week, I wrote about how President Trump benefits from being a prodigious liar with effectively no regard for the truth because we have all become so desensitized such that each individual lie has very little negative impact. This, of course, enables him to say anything he wants to keep his base jazzed up. There is one aspect of being president, however, where this trait is definitively still a significant hindrance: dealing with a potential war.
There is nothing a president does which requires more moral authority than the decisions he makes which could cause lots of people to die in warfare. This president clearly has less credibility to do that than any other in modern times, and maybe ever.
A new CNN poll indicates that only about a quarter of Americans has a great deal of trust in the word of this president and his White House. This means it is completely untenable for Trump to be instigating major military conflicts without the reasons behind being at least as clear and undeniable as they were after Pearl Harbor, or 9/11.
This is a large part of why Trump’s bizarre and unscripted verbal declaration that any “threats” by North Korea would be met by nuclear war was both reckless and, frankly, very dumb. In short, Trump reacted to news of apparent new North Korean nuclear capability (something which he promised in January he would never let happen) by ratcheting the rhetoric up to an “11” on a 10 scale, and making a threat that he is totally incapable of backing up, even if he personally had the balls to do it.
Interestingly, it appears that North Korea either intrinsically understands this, or is just totally insane (I am not sure which scenario is scarier, really). They immediately effectively called Trump’s obvious bluff (who promises nuclear war over threats rather than actions?!) by announcing plans to strike the island of Guam.
It’s fortunate for Trump that most of his poorly educated cult-like base doesn’t realize that Guam is a United States territory and that North Korea clearly stepped right over Trump’s “red line.” Otherwise some of them might start to think that their brave hero is actually a moron who just got exposed for doing an inverted Teddy Roosevelt (speaking too loudly and carrying a tiny stick).
While some of his fans will attempt to rationalize that what Trump did was him playing some sort of brilliant chess maneuver by being unpredictable, the reality is that this was a classic Trump checkers move. Trump knows that he has far greater military might than North Korea, doesn’t know how to navigate a super-sensitive diplomatic situation, and decided to show what a tough guy he is without fully considering what the next moves would likely be.
This is how Trump almost always responds to any situation. What makes him feels best in that moment and will play best in his preferred media on that particular day, is what he is greatly inclined to do. What is likely to happen a few weeks from now, or even tomorrow, rarely seems to even be part of his equation.
It is almost like Trump lives each day like it could very well be his last on earth. Now, by theoretically promising to get us into a nuclear war, a lot of people are wondering if he isn’t forcing all of us to think much the same way.
I’m sure that Trump, who had to be feeling rather impotent with the news of the last couple of weeks (remember when he was supposedly going to fire Jeff Sessions and then wimped out?), thought his John Wayne act was awesome. And this was even before his inner circle of sycophants told him so.
Aside from the obvious problems with Trump’s mouth writing checks his political authority can’t possibly cash, there is a separate substantive issue which seems to be getting lost here. This deals with the remarkable speed with which Trump fully accepted and responded to, in highly dramatic fashion, the news that North Korea has supposedly significantly expanded its nuclear capabilities.
Given that Trump has still yet to fully accept the findings of our intelligence agencies that Russia “hacked” our election, it is astonishing and quite telling that he would readily/instantly buy fully into a conclusion by these very same organizations. This is especially true when it would appear that, by its very nature, the information coming out of North Korea could not possibly be as unquestionable as it seems to be with regard to Russia.
It’s almost like Trump decides what is true and what isn’t based on what he thinks is good for him at that particular moment. Nah, America would never possibly elect a president who really thought in such a dangerous way, especially with regard to matters of the utmost importance.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.