Republicans appear to be okay with President Trump threatening nuclear war. In fact, to some, it’s a positive.
On Tuesday, President Trump responded to a report that North Korea had increased its nuclear capabilities by suggesting that the United States might respond to further threats with force. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he said. “…They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,fire and fury like the world has ever seen.”
Some were alarmed by the severity of Trump’s threat and its improvised delivery. Democrats in Congress responded quickly, calling the statement “reckless and “unhinged.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement saying that Trump was “not helping the situation with his bombastic comments”; Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said Trump was “drawing an absurd red line.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) also took to Twitter, saying, “We need de-escalation, not a miscalculation.” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said Trump needed to “tone it down.”
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 8, 2017
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) August 9, 2017
But with the notable exception of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who told a local radio station that he took “exception” to Trump’s comments and that “great leaders…don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act,” the GOP has been slow to reject Trump’s threat. Some, in fact, have embraced it.
When asked to respond to Trump’s comment on local AM radio station 1430 WCMY, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) laughed. “That’s not necessarily words I would use,” he said. “At the same time, the niceties we’ve been saying, the diplomatic language, you know what it’s led to? It’s led to a North Korea with a miniaturized nuclear capability….The way I look at it is it’s saying, ‘Let’s try something different.'” Kinzinger also referred to media coverage of Trump’s comment as “hysteria.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) also praised Trump’s language in an interview with Jamie Allman for a local news station in St. Louis. “I actually don’t fault the president on this, and I think the fact that he’s willing to make a statement like that diminishes the likelihood that we’ll have to deal with this problem in that way as opposed to some other way,” he said.
“This is what this guy understands,” Blunt added, referring to Kim Jong-Un.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) reiterated those talking points during an interview with local news station KOA News Radio, adding that Trump’s unpredictability was actually a good thing. “Sometimes it’s good when you have someone in charge who’s unpredictable as Trump is,” he said, adding that North Korea wouldn’t be able to assess whether the U.S. response would be aggressive or not. “We’re making positive strides in terms of trying to disarm the situation,” he said.
Other lawmakers sidestepped the question altogether. “The person we have as president of the United States right now is a person who says what’s on his mind,” Sen. James Risch (R-ID) said during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “He tweets it, and he’s very clear on what he’s thinking, whether you agree or disagree with him.”
Though many Republicans have shrugged off Trump’s words, many of the president’s critics argue that they could have serious consequences, as it’s unclear how North Korea might react. More importantly, if North Korea feels especially threatened, it could retaliate with a weapons stockpile that could devastate innocent civilians in South Korea and Japan.
“The President’s ‘fire and fury’ ad lib was not helpful,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a statement on Wednesday, explaining some Democrats’ concerns. “Defusing the North Korea threat will take smart, steady leadership and stronger diplomatic ties with our key allies.”