Donald Trump’s Defining Moments

Donald Trump’s “reality TV” presidency revolves around his penchant for ignoring diplomatic tradition and brushing aside political decency in favor of stirring up his “base,” a dangerous approach, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

In the last few weeks, President Trump has gone through a series of defining moments in which his disturbing rhetorical reactions to historical developments have opened a window on his sense of the world and the nation.

President Trump offers a tougher statement on Aug. 14, 2017, regarding white-nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, before soon reverting to his more ambiguous position blaming counter-protesters as well. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

Let’s pick up the story on Friday, August 11. On that day the New York Times (NYT) announced “Conservatives Relish the ‘Fury’ in Trumps Talk.” A blurb for the article said, “Fans of Tough Rhetoric See a Promised Kept.” The reference was to Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would respond to any North Korean aggression with a counterattack of “fire and fury.” Maybe he would even consider a preemptive strike.

The “fire and fury” talk seems to have been a spontaneous, uncensored display of what President Trump would do to North Korea if not precariously held in check by select others – perhaps certain Republican Party leaders and military advisers – who will now try to sublimate the President’s belligerency into a new strategy for Afghanistan.

As is typical of spontaneous responses, the “fire and fury” outburst was contextualized not by historical facts or thought-out policy, but rather by the uninhibited personality of the responder.

At this point it should be noted that it has taken centuries to mature a set of diplomatic rules and practices which even now only just manages to keep the aggressive behavior of most nation-states in check. To see the President of the United States treat that history as if it meant little is chilling. Just as chilling is the response of the President’s “base.”

Trump’s belligerent rhetoric exhilarated his “die hard” (pun intended) supporters, who obviously have the…

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