Thomas Lucente: Off-the-cuff rhetoric on North Korea has no place in White House

By Thomas J. Lucente Jr. -


See past columns by Thomas J. Lucente Jr. at

Usually, when the madman in North Korea rambles on about attacking the West, the correct response is to shake one’s ahead and go about one’s business.

Unfortunately, these days, we have an intellectual gnat in the White House with possible mental health issues of his own and serious lack of understanding about how government and diplomacy work.

After reports that North Korea has finally been able to construct a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile, Trump told a group of reporters that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.”

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state,” President Donald Trump said. “And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Trump’s saber rattling was disturbing on multiple levels. White House officials later said the remarks were not planned.


Being president of the United States is more than just flexing muscle. You must do it responsibly and with diplomacy.

You certainly don’t threaten fire and fury for the mere act of “threatening” us.

Within hours, North Korea reportedly said it was considering an attack on Guam. They called Trump’s bluff. Trump warned against threats and threats were promptly delivered.


Crazy Korean, 1; Crazy American, 0.

Of course, we should be prepared to respond to North Korean hostility with force. And we should certainly make that clear in no uncertain terms.

But an experienced, or even simply a knowledgeable, person would have made it clear that we would respond with fire and fury to hostile actions, not simply hostile words. The president, especially when speaking about foreign affairs, should rarely be speaking off the cuff. His words should be measured to properly convey American policy. And it has never been U.S. policy to destroy other nations for the mere act of threatening us.

Let’s face facts.

North Korea is not really a threat to the United States. It is a regional threat, to be sure. And U.S. interests are obviously threatened, though. However, that part is our own fault for irresponsibly maintaining 800 military bases in some 70 countries.

But I digress.

Part of the charm of North Korea is that bellicose rhetoric is par for the course.

The North Korean regime has but one goal: to remain in power. Everything the government does is focused on that simple, single-minded goal. That is why the military is the first priority, even to the detriment of being able to feed the population.

One common tactic of tyrannical regimes is to find a common enemy and make the people believe, especially if they are living in poverty, starving, and lacking in basic necessities such as running water and electricity, that their sacrifices are for the greater glory of protecting the homeland from a common evil, in this case the United States.

The regime makes these threats in a carefully scripted way to motivate the loyalty of those whose lives would certainly be better if they lived in a free society.

Kim Jong Un might be a crazy man, but he is not an idiot. He knows launching a nuclear weapon at anyone, especially the United States, would result in his total destruction and collapse of the regime. Likewise, he knows conducting missile tests and threatening the United States strengthens his position among his own people.

So while the United States should keep an eye on Kim, the president, and other nut job war hawks, such as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., should keep their public responses to North Korea measured.

We should also be pressuring China to keep North Korea in line. If there is going to be a solution to the North Korean “problem” it will have to include China.

But such nuance and understanding of world affairs is lost on Trump and he either hired incompetent advisers or he simply refuses to heed their counsel, thinking he is smarter than they are.

Looking at Trump’s record for the last 30 years, one should wisely suspect the latter.

By Thomas J. Lucente Jr.


See past columns by Thomas J. Lucente Jr. at

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an attorney and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at, or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an attorney and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at, or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.

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