Members of Congress returning to Washington were quick to condemn President Trump’s Tuesday-night tweet taunting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un about the sizes of their so-called nuclear buttons.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’” Trump wrote. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Democratic lawmakers tore into Trump for casually invoking the specter of a nuclear war. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter that the tweet “borders on presidential malpractice.”
Imagine being a servicemember or the family of a servicemember stationed in Korea and reading this. This borders on presidential malpractice. https://t.co/rII95iu0Vm
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 3, 2018
Worried that @realDonaldTrump could launch a #nuclear war? My bill w/ @RepTedLieu would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear first strike. No one person should have the power to decide when the U.S. will be the first to use nuclear weapons. RT if you agree.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 3, 2018
This is dangerous and exactly why I’m fighting to ensure nuclear strikes require Congressional approval. https://t.co/ox8neyTANx
— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) January 3, 2018
Cadet Bone Spurs should worry more about the 35K US troops stationed in ROK who could be killed in a #NorthKorea nuclear strike&ensuing artillery duel than the relative size of his "nuclear button" https://t.co/mbnj3z3pQJ
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) January 3, 2018
“I guess the president regards this as a show of strength,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said on CNN. “But as everybody who’s ever been in a, you know, first-grade playground recognizes, it’s usually the person who’s most aggressively pounding their chest that is in fact the weak one on the playground.”
Meanwhile, some national security experts worried aloud about Trump’s state of mind.
Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at Washington’s Ethics & Public Policy Center and veteran of three Republican presidential administrations, said Trump’s recent behavior is “more evidence we’re watching an American president psychologically, emotionally and cognitively decompose.”
Mr. Trump's recent twitter storm/interviews are more evidence we're watching an American president psychologically, emotionally and cognitively decompose. It's rather alarming to watch, and the president is not well. But at least he's cutting regulations.
— Peter Wehner (@Peter_Wehner) January 3, 2018
Spoken like a petulant ten year old. But one with nuclear weapons – for real – at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me. https://t.co/uKu6p1KUWp
— Eliot A Cohen (@EliotACohen) January 3, 2018
This madman is still the single most powerful person on the planet, with the ability to order the destruction of the world in just over four minutes. https://t.co/XIKB23NKQM
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 3, 2018
Having a president like Trump who brags “Mine is bigger than yours” to overcome an apparent fear of impotence and emasculation would be merely pathetic if it didn’t risk nuclear war. Hate to say it, but @realDonaldTrump is a danger to civilization. https://t.co/4Fb708t9Is
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 3, 2018
This is not a game. This is not a reality show. This is a clear and present danger. We should all be deeply worried by this new tweet. https://t.co/54ZKcneoUT
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) January 3, 2018
Others wondered whether the provocative tweet violated Twitter’s terms of service.
.@jack you can save the world by not allowing threats that will end up killing millions of people's lives…
This is scary & ridiculous…
Publishing global death threats on twitter isn't "freedom of speech"
You can help ease the worlds anxiety by placing new twitter rules. https://t.co/3MmCYm5zyQ
— will.i.am (@iamwill) January 3, 2018
did you know uploading beatles music videos is against twitter rules but threatening nuclear war is not???
— Ziwe (@ziwe) January 3, 2018
Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, mocked the concern.
Carry on w/your night @BrianStelter. While you would love nothing more than to see a Twitter ToS Violation for handle: @realDonaldTrump, you and all of your liberal friends have NOTHING. Keep calling TwitterStop trying to be the NEWS. Just report the NEWS & try keeping it REAL!
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) January 3, 2018
To the president’s core supporters, the “nuclear button” tweet was just Trump being Trump. And to Michael Flynn Jr., who served on Trump’s transition team and is the son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, it was “why Trump was elected.”
— MFLYNNJR (@mflynnJR) January 3, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s tweet in an interview with Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren.
“President Trump made it clear,” Pence said. “America will not be bullied. America will not be threatened. And that the United States of America has, by being clear, managed to marshal an unprecedented amount of economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.”
Pence’s predecessor, former Vice President Joe Biden, said that Trump’s tweets taunting North Korea show “really poor judgment.”
“The only war that’s worse than one intended is one that’s unintended,” Biden told CNN. “This is not a game. This is not about, ‘Can I puff by chest out bigger than your chest?’ It’s just not, it’s not presidential.”
Trump’s latest display of social media saber-rattling caps a months-long war of words with Kim and the rogue nuclear nation.
In a September speech to the United Nations, Trump warned that the United States may be forced to “totally destroy North Korea” if it proceeds with its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.
The next month, Trump referred to Kim as “short and fat.”
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
On Tuesday, the president reiterated his preferred nickname for the North Korean dictator.
Sanctions and “other” pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
“Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!”
Cover tile photo: Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: Mike Theiler/Pool via Bloomberg, KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images
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