North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is often characterized as a petulant, highly suspicious tyrant whose regular anti-U.S. tirades have long been cautiously viewed as bluster aimed at aggrandizing himself to his population. But the guy has nukes.
Now the prospect of pushing the Hermit Kingdom’s leader into lobbing missiles at U.S. territory seems more real than it’s ever been -- and America’s right wing media seems giddy at President Donald Trump’s willingness to toss lit matches at a powder keg.
For the past three presidents, the White House has responded to the North Korean regime in metered terms, underscoring America’s unwavering support for South Korea while urging China to do more to rein in its capricious ally. But this week, Trump abandoned that bipartisan tradition to ratchet up his bellicose threats -- leading the alt-right website Breitbart to declare Trump the winner of “round one with North Korea.”
Right-wing media figures have begun to lash out at anyone who argues that Trump should tone down his rhetorical brinkmanship.
“What does this mean?” Rush Limbaugh said Thursday on his popular right-wing talk radio program, referring to warnings by lawmakers that the president’s words could trigger Kim into following through on his threats.
“It means that wimpism has taken over the Washington establishment, that wussism and wimpism and pajama boyism has taken over. North Korea is a zit on the butt of a pig and there’s no reason to be afraid of it."
Just in case Trump hadn't heard Limbaugh's message, the president's favorite cable news show, "Fox & Friends," aired Limbaugh's rant Friday morning.
"It was just so good we had to play it," co-host Ainsley Earhardt told viewers:
Nearly 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted that the U.S. military was "lock and loaded":
The Fox News morning show has praised Trump’s tough talk all week.
The president said earlier this week that the U.S. would rain “fire and fury” on Pyongyang should Kim follow through on threats to retaliate against the U.S. for new U.N. sanctions imposed after two North Korean long-range missile tests. Kim replied by offering up specific plans to launch missiles at Guam, the militarized U.S. territory located 2,100 miles to the south.
“I believe it was right on target,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said Wednesday after the president’s “fire and fury” statement. “After almost from the day the president became president-elect, North Korea has been in our face. They seem to be wanting this confrontation, and yesterday the president had reached his limit.”
Trump, who rarely seems happier than when he’s being praised, is widely believed to be a loyal “Fox & Friends” viewer, which puts the show in position as one of the president’s main sources of feedback on his performance.
A recent Vox analysis comparing 17 months of “Fox & Friends” transcripts showed a strange “symbiotic relationship” in which the show seems to be talking directly to the president on behalf of Fox’s homogeneous community of Trump-supporting conservative Republicans.
The right-wing media seems to adhere to the notion that Kim will only back down if he’s spoken to with equal aggression.
Moscow, which is no stranger to tough talk and action, isn’t so certain.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently rated the risk of military conflict as “very high.” Russia and China are working on a plan to defuse tensions, but it seems Trump and his media sycophants believe that stooping to Kim’s level of schoolyard taunts is a better approach.