Within a day of Trump threatening nuclear war against North Korea, his administration has begun walking back his claim that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” in order to prevent the volatile political situation escalating. Reported the Huff Post:
Reporters from The New York Times, Politico and The Washington Post all spoke to White House sources who advised not to “read too much into” Trump’s comments, which were “absolutely” Trump’s words and not those of his new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly...
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday there is no “imminent threat” from North Korea, despite Trump’s remarks the day before.
“Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson told reporters.
“I think what the president was doing was sending a strong message with language that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson added.
Notice the word "I think" from Tillerson, and the sources who advised the public not to "read to much into" Trump's comments.
Trump reportedly created the line about unleashing "fire and fury" all by himself, and the freak out in his administration is yet another glaring sign that he has almost completely lost control of his government. The truth is, no one really knows what the president thinks about anything. His positions change on a day by day basis, and he blurts out whatever is on his mind to his millions of followers on Twitter, only to be ignored by his staff who work overtime to convince the media Trump doesn't mean what he says and isn't lying when he clearly is. This was best illustrated when Kellyanne Conway went on CNN to explain that while Trump was clearly lying about voter fraud, the president "doesn't think he's lying about those issues, and you know it." Because the president thinks he is telling the truth and being very presidential, it makes it totally fine.
Disturbingly, the conflicting messages coming out of the White House shows that the administration is working around the clock to stop the president from governing. When Trump threatens to use "fire and fury" on a foreign government and his team comes out the day after to tell the public not to "read to much into" it, the dysfunction is likely beyond repair. As Jonathan Chait noted last week in a brilliant essay highlighting the wholesale collapse of the Trump administration:
When Trump tweeted that he would ban transgender Americans from military service, the Defense Department announced there had been “no modifications to the current policy” and that, “in the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.” When Trump gave a speech to police urging them to rough up suspects, several police chiefs and even the head of his own Drug Enforcement Agency registered their public objections. The accretion of these acts of defiance is significant. The federal government has flipped on its chief executive.....
Politically gridlocked presidencies have become normal, but for the office to be occupied by a man whose own party elites doubt his functional competence and even loyalty is, to borrow a term, unpresidented. Trump’s obsession with humiliation and dominance has left him ill-prepared to cope with high-profile failure. He seems unlikely to content himself with quiet, incremental bureaucratic reform.
To recap, Trump threatened war on North Korea, then the US government stepped in and told the public not to listen to their president.
Totally normal, folks. Totally normal.