Aug 12, 2017

Trump on the brink


Evan Vucci / AP

On Thursday — after "fire and fury" was followed by a double-down, then by signs of a pullback — a top Republican who calls pretty honest balls and strikes on this White House emailed me:

  • "The President's policy path on North Korea is clear and unambiguous: disarm or die. His rhetoric may not appeal to the haute foreign policy arbiters. But it resonates with the South, the Japanese and, most importantly, the Chinese."
  • By last night, after "locked and loaded," the same person said: "Tone seems to be moving from tough to shrill. ... He muddled his own message."

An AP analysis for Sunday papers, by Jonathan Lemire, captures the zeitgeist: "Faced with ... his gravest international crisis yet, ... Trump responded precisely as his some of supporters hoped and his critics long feared — with plain-spoken bluster, spontaneity and norm-breaking risk."

Here's the mood and the moves as we begin the weekend:

  • The five-column lead headline of today's WashPost is, "World holds its breath on N. Korea."
  • This morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping is the one pleading for cool-headedness.
  • "Recent satellite photos suggest North Korea could be preparing for fresh submarine-based ballistic missile tests," AFP reports. "Joseph Bermudez, a specialist in North Korean defense and intelligence affairs, posted photographs on the authoritative 38 North blog of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University which he said could show preparations for a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile."
  • The WashPost's Gene Robinson noted on "Morning Joe": "You don't know if this is going to be OK. ... The potential for miscalculation is huge."

Be smart: Nothing has worked with North Korea, giving Trump cover to try a new approach. But faith is fading among top Republicans, on the Hill and elsewhere, that there's wisdom behind the words.

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