A “Morning Joe” panel agreed President Donald Trump seemed to be escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea to prove his authority over the generals he’d placed in the White House.
The president threatened “fire and fury” against North Korea over its nuclear program, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson walked back those provocations — as Trump administration officials often were forced to do.
“Time and time again you see President Trump on the one hand brag about having all these military officers, he’s surrounded himself with these big brawny generals, but he seems determined not to take their advice,” said Susan Glasser, chief international affairs columnist for Politico.
She said the same dynamic has played out on Afghanistan and NATO, where the president clearly disagreed with his national security team.
“You have on the one hand a team that’s in disarray,” Glasser said. “On the other hand, you also have a president who is determined to signal, ‘I don’t want any adults in the room except me.’ Nothing, I think, makes him crazier than this idea that there are responsible grownups who are going to contain him, and so now you have him, you know, essentially flirting with this nuclear rhetoric almost as a response to this critique.”
MSNBC’s Elise Jordan pointed out that Trump has been obsessed with nuclear weapons for decades, showing a fascination with their power and a curiosity about their use — but reporter Mark Leibovich questioned the president’s negotiating position.
“The question is where do you go from fire and fury,” said Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine.
“When has North Korea and Kim Jong-un shown any unwillingness not to test or at least provoke in this context and if, in fact, this fire and fury comment doesn’t sort of result in the kind of chastening that the president in some mind set hopes it does, it’s going to fall on the generals to actual develop a strategy in which the president or someone says to them, we now have to justify the fire and fury comment because we don’t want to look weak.”
But Leibovich said the president undoubtedly had gotten the response he wanted by escalating tensions with North Korea as his approval rating sags and the Russia scandal swallows up his administration.
“The president, I suspect, is happy that we’re all talking about him and they’re showing his remarks and he came across looking strong,” Leibovich said.