Publisher's Note: One of the most significant things you can do to promote Liberty is to support our mission. Please make your gift to the 2021 Year-End Campaign today. Thank you! —Mark Alexander, Publisher

Charles Krauthammer / May 5, 2017

Trump: ‘Normalized’ but Still Scary

With near unanimity, my never-Trump friends confess a sense of relief. It could have been worse. They thought it would be worse. A deep apprehension still endures but the international order remains intact, the republic still stands, and no “enemy of the people” has (yet) been arrested.

With near unanimity, my never-Trump friends confess a sense of relief. It could have been worse. They thought it would be worse. A deep apprehension still endures but the international order remains intact, the republic still stands, and no “enemy of the people” has (yet) been arrested.

Admittedly, this is a low bar. And this is not to deny the insanity, incoherence and sheer weirdness emanating daily from the White House, with which we’ve all come up with our own coping technique. Here’s mine: I simply view President Trump as the Wizard of Oz.

Loud and bombastic. A charlatan. Nothing behind the screen — other than the institutional chaos that defines his White House and the psychic chaos that governs his ever-changing mind. What to do? Ignore what’s behind the curtain. Deal with what comes out in front: the policy, the pronouncements, the actions.

And so far they hang together enough — Neil Gorsuch, Keystone XL, NATO reassurances, Syria strike, Cabinet appointments — that one can begin to talk plausibly about the normalization of this presidency.

Hence the relief. But there are limitations to the Wizard of Oz approach. Some things do extrude from behind the curtain that are hard to ignore. And here I am not counting the gratuitous idiocies that can, despite their entertainment value, be safely ignored — for example, Trump’s puzzlement as to why the Civil War was not avoided and how Andrew Jackson, who’d been dead 16 years, was so upset by its outbreak.

These are embarrassments, but they don’t materially affect the course of his presidency or of the country. Some weirdnesses, however, do.

Such as, Trump’s late-April pronouncements on South Korea. Being less entertaining, they were vastly underreported. Here’s the context:

Trump is orchestrating a worldwide campaign to pressure North Korea on its nukes and missiles. He dispatches (finally) the USS Carl Vinson strike group to Korean waters and raises the possibility of a “major, major conflict” with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, we are working furiously to complete a THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea to intercept North Korean rockets.

At which point, out of the blue, Trump tells Reuters that Seoul will have to pay for the THAAD system. And by the way, that five-year-old U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement is a disaster and needs to be torn up.

Now, South Korea is in the middle of a highly charged presidential campaign. The pro-American president was recently impeached and is now under indictment. The opposition party is ahead. It is wary of the U.S., accommodating to North Korea and highly negative about installing that THAAD system on its soil.

We had agreed with Seoul that they would provide the land and the infrastructure, and we would pay the $1 billion cost. Without warning, Trump reneges on the deal, saying South Korea will have to foot the bill. This stirs anti-American feeling and gives opposition candidate Moon Jae-in the perfect campaign issue.

What is it with this president insisting that other people pay for things we want? And for what? In a $4 trillion budget, $1 billion is a rounding error.

So self-defeating was the idea that within three days, national security adviser H.R. McMaster had to walk it all back, assuring the South Koreans that we would indeed honor our agreement and send no $1 billion invoice.

But the damage was done. Moon’s campaign feasted. The pro-American party was thrown on its heels. And the very future of THAAD — and a continued united front against Pyongyang under a likely Moon administration — is in doubt.

As for the trade deal, the installation of THAAD has so angered China that it has already initiated an economic squeeze on South Korea. To which Trump would add a trade rupture with the United States.

The South Korean blunder reinforces lingering fears about Trump. Especially because it was an unforced error. What happens in an externally caused crisis? Then, there is no hiding, no guardrails, no cushioning. It’s the wisdom and understanding of one man versus whatever the world has thrown up against us. However normalized this presidency may be day to day, in such a moment all bets are off.

What happens when the red phone rings at 3 in the morning?

I’d say: Let it ring. Let the wizard sleep. Forward the call to Defense Secretary Mattis.

© 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.