Best case scenario: he’s started a full-blown Cold War.
This was Trump’s first Tweet out of the box this morning:
Yesterday, during a broad-ranging chat with media (designed to prove he’s working and not on vacation), Trump said perhaps his “fire and fury” threat wasn’t “tough enough.” When asked what would be tougher, the President said “you’ll see.”
We just did. And the world was made worse for it.
Part of Trump’s North Korea conversation from yesterday is here:
Most other messaging of late seemed aimed at softening Trump’s stance. Prior to this morning’s Tweet, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. has “diplomatic traction…and I want to stay there right now.”
And South Korean media reported today the U.S. has agreed not to launch any strike against North Korea without talking to South Korea about it beforehand. That assurance reportedly coming from Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. (Although we wonder if the President himself knows about it?) This is really important, because as we said yesterday the biggest danger is some kind of misunderstanding or miscalculation. Having a mandatory consultation with a country that has dealt with these kinds of threats for years could help a lot in that regard.
What Does North Korea’s Extremely Detailed Plan To Shoot Missiles Towards Guam Really Mean?
When we originally wrote this section of the newsletter last night, we speculated there was very little chance North Korea was actually going to shoot missiles off the coast of Guam. Now all bets are off.
So far, North Korea has shown no signs of being in any type of “attack” (or “near-attack”) mode. But who knows how they’ll respond after today.Their strategy so far seems to be to insult and aggravate on the grandest scale possible. And it’s working: they’ve gotten under Trump’s skin probably even more efficaciously than they ever dreamed.
The Washington Post has this graphic showing how experts can tell North Korea’s missiles can travel further than before, even though so far it’s pretty much just shot them straight up into the air.
Why Did North Korea Feel It Was Necessary To Start A Nuclear Program In The First Place?
This report from Timeline suggests it was done almost exclusively to gain leverage to extract economic support from outside countries and specifically the U.S.
As we’ve said a bunch of times, nuclear weapons remain North Korea’s only real bargaining chip, but it’s also moved beyond: it’s a source of national pride that helps hold the regime together. Without nuclear weapons, nobody cares about them, their anemic economy just rots, and their people suffer in oblivion. (Which might be enough to spur regime change).
We should also point out that Trump is not a “natural enemy.” Nor is the U.S., really. Yes, there was the Korean War. (But that predated the Vietnam War, and we’re doing just fine with that country.) Modern-day U.S. Diplomatic objections have tended to focus on North Korea’s brutal totalitarianism and well-documented widespread human rights abuses. But Trump has made a point of saying he doesn’t care about that in places like Saudi Arabia. And Secretary of State Tillerson has stressed repeatedly the US is not after regime change in North Korea.
The Opioid Crisis Is A National Emergency After All
Or so said the President, after failing to accept that recommendation from his own panel on the topic just a couple of days ago.
Trump still showed signs of not being terribly engaged with the subject, comparing opioids to LSD use in the 60s. He went to say he hopes “we get it taken care of as well as it can be taken care of.”
Uncertainty About What Trump’s Going To Do Figures Huge Into What You’re Going To Pay For Health Insurance Next Year
A new, comprehensive report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds: “The vast majority of insurers…cite uncertainty surrounding the individual mandate and/or cost sharing subsidies as a factor in their 2018 rates filings.”
Those are the main things Trump says he may abandon in order to get Obamacare to “implode.” But he hasn’t made any decision yet, even as decision-making time for insurers nears. Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel in congress is set to head off any damage the President may try to do, but it may run out of time to have any impact for 2018 rates.
Kaiser says on average you can expect an extra rate increase of 20% if the President keeps messing around.
Trump Attacks Senate Majority Leader McConnell On Twitter, But Later Tries To Egg Him On Like A Father At A Middle School Soccer Match
We love this photo from the New York Times:
Why Trump’s Statement That He Is “Very Thankful” To Putin For Expelling 755 Diplomatic Workers From Russia Matters
Trump said: “I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.” Now obviously the President thought he was making a funny. (And maybe the State Department is bloated.)
But he is talking about 755 people and their families. 755 people who are privy to sensitive, often classified information. 755 people who have lots of close friends also employed by State and various intelligence agencies.
And, even if in jest, he basically just called all 755 unnecessary pieces of crap.
Mr. President, if you don’t want leaks, we’d suggest starting by treating your people with respect.