Trump’s irresponsible North Korea rhetoric was reportedly something he added in on his own in defiance of the advice he received from his aides:
Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations this week, saying insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis.
Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man on a suicide mission” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted Monday, the day before Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, two U.S. officials said.
Nothing about this is surprising, but it is worth saying a few things about it. This is hardly the first time that Trump has been specifically advised against doing something before he turns around and does it anyway, but it may be one of the more significant episodes since he took office. It is another story that confirms that when Trump is left to his own devices he consistently makes bad decisions and is incapable of controlling his impulses. That leaves us with the worst of both worlds: Trump doesn’t have the knowledge or conviction to resist genuinely bad advice, but also lacks the judgment and good sense to heed smart counsel. He can be talked into continuing and escalating the war in Afghanistan or perpetuating an atrocious policy of backing the Saudis in Yemen, but it isn’t possible to restrain him from making ill-advised threats and personal insults against other states and leaders. On the rare occasions when he doesn’t overrule his advisers and Cabinet members, he resents them for not giving him a way to get what he wants, and from then on he is even less inclined to listen to the people that advised caution. It’s not just that Trump isn’t and never was an advocate for restraint in any sense of the word, but he is the living embodiment of its opposite in both his temperament and his policy preferences. That bodes ill for the fate of U.S. commitments under the nuclear deal and for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy as a whole.