"Brooks and Marcus on Trump's threats for North Korea, thanks for Putin" PBS NewsHour 8/11/2017
SUMMARY: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Trump's tough words for North Korea over its nuclear threat, as well as his thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats, plus his attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.
And we welcome both of you.
So, you just heard two very different views from our earlier expert guests on North Korea.
You heard the President again commenting, David, and now Senator Risch. How do you assess the President's management of this North Korea situation?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Unusual, I guess.
DAVID BROOKS: It will come after the war in Venezuela, apparently, we just learned. I don't know what that was all about.
Listen, there's been a consensus of how to deal with this extremely knotty problem. And that is, at least on the rhetorical level, the North Korean regime is extremely fiery, extremely insecure, sometimes hysterical.
And when you're around somebody who's screaming and unstable, the last thing you want to do is add to the instability with your own unstable, hysterical rhetoric.
And so most administrations, Republican and Democrats, when the North Koreans say they're going to Seoul into a lake of fire, whatever their rhetoric is, have just ignored it and relied on some underlying sense that the North Koreans don't want to commit national suicide.
Donald Trump has gone the other way. Now, I think that is still — that sense that neither party wants to go into a war is still there. But the psychological probabilities that you're going to enter into some August 1914 miscalculation certainly go up when both people are screaming at the top of their lungs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Ruth, you Justice Department heard Senator Risch, who says he talks to the White House. And he said: I have talked to the President, and we think being very clear with North Korea is the best way to go.
RUTH MARCUS, The Washington Post: Yes.
Well, David used the term unusual. I think it's just absolutely scary. And I didn't feel calmed down listening to Senator Risch, I have to say.
But there's a couple of positive things to say about President Trump here, just to surprise people for a second. One is that this situation with North Korea is not his fault. In other words, we were going to get to this. Some President was going to end up in the terrible situation we have with the progress that North Korea has made with nuclear weapons. He [Trump] just happens to be the President.
Number two, they were doing a very good job, until this latest eruptions of kind of bullying testosterone this week, in terms of pursuing what needs to be done, which is the diplomatic sanctions. Senator Risch is right about the achievement in the Security Council.
But, all of a sudden, we saw this week these statements, and you would have thought Tuesday that maybe it was an eruption and they'd tamp it down. And, instead, day after day after day, he's coming out saying more scary and dangerous things.
And I do not understand how that is anything but destabilizing, and with a very already unstable ally [enemy?].
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, it could be that he thinks the North Koreans are undeterrable, and that this is not a usual regime, maybe because they have this new leader, and that you actually do have to take action. He could be — he believes that.
It could be he just likes to blunder. It’s always dangerous to overinterpret what Donald Trump says at any one moment. And it could be he thinks the 'madman theory' is right theory here. And the madman…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Remind everybody what the madman — because it sounds scary.
DAVID BROOKS: The 'madman theory' is that you can be a successful deterrer if you — if they think you could be crazy.
And so I think it can be very effective, so long as you’re not actually crazy. And so we have a North Korean, we’re not really sure. We have a President who has his moments.
And so the 'madman theory,' when both people could actually be crazy, is actually a very dangerous situation.
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