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Hoping for the Best, Contemplating the Worst

President Donald Trump and top officials from his administration are warning that time is running out for a peaceful solution to North Korea’s recent provocations, which might very well be the best thing to be saying, but there’s no denying that every other sort of solution will be very bad. Accepting the fact of the nutcase North Korean dictatorship as a nuclear power with intercontinental ballistic capabilities is also an intolerable outcome, though, and there’s no denying that past efforts at a more conciliatory diplomacy have failed to prevent the North Koreans from recent tests of a nuclear bomb capable of destroying a major city and missiles lobbed over Japanese air space that could reach American territory.
Tough talk hasn’t proved any more effective over the past many decades of dealings with the nutcase North Korean dictatorships, and has failed spectacularly in recent weeks, with their latest and most worrisome round of tests coming after Trump threatened “fire and fury like no one has ever seen” in case of any further provocations, but it might best to keep it up. One fact that the nutcase North Korean dictatorship has to accept is the fact that if it does come down to a nuclear war there won’t be much of North Korea left, as a devastating response to a nuclear attack against the United States has been American policy through every president since Truman, and one this administration might actually relish implementing, and that’s a strong hand to play with even the most nutcase dictators.
As United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, who has proved quite adept at the job, put it in an interview with the Cable News Networks’ “State of the Union” program on Sunday, “If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or its allies, North Korea will be destroyed.” She was quick to add that “None of us want that. None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that we are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States but to all of its allies.” Which strikes us as some very savvy diplomatic speech. It warns of the dire consequences of making America defend itself or its allies, leaves carefully unsaid what level of provocation would provoke that result, signals a willingness to continue negotiations on reasonable terms, and allows room for peaceful and tolerable solution.
National security advisor H.R. McMaster, a lieutenant Army general who served admirably in three wars and holds a doctorate in American history and is regarded by even the mainstream press as one of the wise hands of the Trump administration, took a similarly strong but precisely worded stand on the American Broadcasting Company’s “This Week” program, saying of the nutcase North Korean dictator that “He’s going to have to give up his nuclear weapons,” noting the president has been very clear about that, but quickly adding “all options are on the table.” Softly spoken but carrying the aforementioned big stick, with a metaphorical also dangled, and a resume to back up both the tough talk and the clear yearning for a peaceful solution, it also seemed as right a diplomatic statement as we could think of.
Trump himself spent the morning “tweeting,” including an apparently newsworthy video of of the president hitting a golf ball and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton being knocked down by it, which Trump’s fans reportedly found hilarious, but he also “tweeted” a couple of taunts against the nutcase North Korean dictator. One boasted that the United Nations sanctions on North Korea had led to “gas lines,” and another nicknamed the nutcase dictator “Rocket Man.” We don’t doubt that the recent sanctions have hindered North Korea’s economy, but at this point it’s a rare North Korean who owns an automobile and the rest are pretty much accustomed to abject poverty, and it’s clear that nutcase dictator doesn’t care much about any of that. As for that “Rocket Man” zinger, we’re also doubtful that the nutcase dictator can be brought by down by a nickname the same way “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and “Little” Marco Rubio and “Crooked” Clinton were. It’s not at all the polished diplomatic speech we’re accustomed to, but we’ll hold out faint hope it’s so crazy it just might work.
If it doesn’t, and things comes to worst, we’ll trust that America still stands with or without Guam or San Diego and the nutcase North Korean dictatorship doesn’t exist at all, and hope that the damage to everyone is as limited as possible. The best case scenarios involve civilian casualties not seen since the darkest days of the World War II in Seoul, South Korea’s capital and most populous city, and the death toll in North Korea’s capital and most populous city of Pyongyan even worse, and maybe even the nutcase North Korean dictator getting a missile launched against Japan’s capital and most populous city, and perhaps China or the Russians or various other far more formidable nuclear powers getting involved.
Those worst-case scenarios seem unlikely, given that most of the parties involved aren’t nutcase dictatorships, and China has already stated that it won’t stop us from nuking North Korea if North Korea nukes us first, and Haley got both China and Russia on board with those UN sanctions, but there’s no denying it remains a worrisome situation. Should the United States’ intelligence community reach a consensus solution with high a degree of confidence that the nutcase North Korean dictator was about to launch a nuclear attack on America or one of it’s allies the right thing to do might very well be a pre-emptive attack, and there would be some very sound diplomatic explanations for that that, but we can’t shake a nervous feeling about Trump and his “tweets.” He’s told the world that the United States’ intelligence community is probably wrong about Russia’s meddling in the past election and was surely wrong about the imminent threat posed by the nutcase Iraqi dictator’s weapons of mass destruction, and that an American president had lied about it to justify a pre-emptive war, and there’s no telling what either China or Russia might make of that.
We hold out hope and fervent prayers that it all comes to some peaceful and tolerable solution, and aren’t worried by the more measured tough talk from those top administration officials, and feel reassured by those wise old hands who show up on the Sunday morning news talk shows. That dictator in North Korea strikes us as a real nutcase, though, and no matter what wise counsel America finds he’s going to have to some say in how it turns out.

— Bud Norman

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How to Handle a Woman

New York City’s municipal election isn’t the only naughty sex comedy on the political stage. Out in San Diego the mayor seems determined to demonstrate that the politicians on west coast can be just as tawdry as those back east.
Mayor Bob Filner has made comments to countless women that are so far beyond even contemporary standards of public decorum that feminists such as attorney Gloria Allred are calling for his resignation, which takes some doing some considering that Filner is a Democrat. Anthony Weiner, who resigned from his congressional seat after lewd photos of himself that he had sent to various surfaced and is now being pressed to resign from New York City’s mayoral race because he kept sending even lewder photos after his resignation, and Elliott Spitzer, who was forced to resign from New York’s governorship because of his penchant for prostitutes but somehow still leads in the race for New York City comptroller, are also Democrats.
We mention these men’s party affiliation not because Republicans would never engage in such crude behavior, but rather because it is always so prominently mentioned in media reports when they do. Weiner’s unfortunate name and the high office he seeks have combined to force more media coverage that his deeds would ordinarily merit, but Spitzer’s whore-mongering past has gone largely unremarked, and there’s a suspicion that Filner’s misdeeds have been getting attention because San Diego is one of the last bastions of California Republicanism, but in none of these cases have the media been quite so gleefully outraged as they surely would be if it they were all in on a Grand Old Party. There’s certainly been no attempt to tie the scandals together into proof of some party-wide pathology, which would surely be the case if they were Republicans.
Several journalists of our acquaintance freely admit the double standard but contend that it is proper, explaining that Republicans deserve the extra scrutiny and scorn because their party presents itself as the defenders of old-fashioned “family values.” Why the Democrats should enjoy a get-out-of-scandal card because they don’t even pretend to have any standards of personal behavior is never made clear, but in any case the argument has long outlived any truth it might have. Republicans rarely push the “family values” slogan these days, being more concerned with keeping the country from insolvency and other economic concerns, while the Democrats consistently accuse their opponents of misogyny and tout themselves as the defenders of womanhood.
Such hypocrisy is more galling than that of the misbehaving Republicans. the most Bible-thumping politician who gets caught with his pants down isn’t trying to make religion compulsory, but the silly sensitivity-training workshops that the average private sector worker endures and the civil liability laws that inspired them have been imposed by the Democratic party with the force of government. These laws and the new rules of sexless behavior have done some good, and the officious way they are often enforced has done some harm, but certainly the political that is responsible should be held to the same rules.
Those rules were dispensed with entirely for the benefit of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and assorted other sexual miscreants whose stands on behalf of women’s rights were said to justify their behavior, so the occasional Democratic criticisms of Filner, Weiner, and Spitzer represent a welcome development. More pushback will be needed, though, if the Democrats want to revive their campaign theme of Republican “war on women” without looking ridiculous.

— Bud Norman