Op-ed: Down in ‘fire and fury’ flames

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 11:51am
  • Opinion

Is it me, or does “Fire and Fury” sound like the name of a rock group? President Donald Trump apparently made up his own lyrics when he trash-talked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he blustered on live TV. “They will be met with re and fury like the world has never seen.”

Aides insist that the “ re and fury” words were Trump’s own, although they had agreed that he needed to convey a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” message. What Trump really accomplished is scaring the daylights out of just about everybody on the planet — everybody but Kim. It wasn’t very long before Pyongyang red back with another threat, this time to loft mis- siles at Guam, in effect, to make the little U.S. territory “Guam With the Wind.”

For good measure, North Korea called the “ re and fury” warning “a load of non- sense.” As usual, Trump then proceeded to double down, insisting his language “maybe wasn’t tough enough.” Still, his national-security people tippy-toed away from the harsh, uh, bombast: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it a point to make an appearance before cameras aboard his plane while itting around Asia. He of- fered a reassurance that “Americans should sleep well at night,” and insisted that the boss was only trying to be crystal clear: “I think what the president was doing was sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would un- derstand, because he doesn’t seem to un- derstand diplomatic language.”

That sound you might have heard was a sigh of relief from those who were worried that the world was hurtling toward a cata- strophic war because two dangerously im- mature leaders couldn’t exercise impulse control. Hundreds of thousands of people could be annihilated before it was over. Under this president, the United States of

America is reduced to hoping that the wiser heads who run Russia or China will bail us out as our commander in chief struggles to comprehend that this is more than an exercise in tough- guy branding. There are no indications that Kim pays any attention whatsoever to social media.

At least Trump’s vitriolic tweets are just usually domestic wars of words. His latest target? Sen. Mitch McConnell, of all people. The majority leader had the temerity to suggest that the White House had rushed Congress into taking on health care and that there were “excessive expec- tations” that something as complicated as undoing and redoing Obamacare could be accomplished so quickly. The Trumpster was all over that: “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Re- peal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done?” Note to POTUS: It’s one thing to take on Kim Jong Un, but don’t mess with Mitch McConnell. He’s more treacherous. He doesn’t engage in trash talk. He just trashes.

Assuming we make it through August without some international calamity, the home front is just about as hostile. Among other items, Congress needs to keep the government up and running, which will re- quire a spending agreement. The hang-up could be the wall. Yes, that wall, the one candidate Trump promised that Mexico would nance. Now he’s demanding that Congress pay for it with taxpayer money, and Democrats are putting up a wall in front of the wall.

You remember the Democrats, don’t you? They’re still the opposition party, and

the one thing they will oppose with all their might will be agreeing to a budget deal with wall funding in it, which could be the biggest barrier to keeping the government going after the scal year ends Sept. 30.

Even bigger than that is the need to raise the debt ceiling at about the same time. Without a raise, the nation will default on its precious sovereign debt, causing eco- nomic chaos. If Kim and any other danger- ous enemies have any smarts, they’ll sim- ply ignore Trump and wait to see what re and fury he in icts on us.

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