The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has been the butt of President Trump's tweets. Insulting him in his tweets has been his most favourite pastime. A sample tweet that the President posted at 3.28 in the morning Washington time on September 27 read: "Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" The North Korean dictator remained calm and unprovoked with the US President's insulting tweets till his rhetoric on him and North Korea on his just-concluded Asian trip forced North Korea to issue a statement that went right under the skin of the US President in an unusual manner.
The statement from KCNA/North Korea was brief that upset the President badly. It read: "The reckless remark by a dotard like Trump can never frighten us or put a stop to our advance. This rather gives us an assured conviction that our choice to embark on the road of simultaneously promoting the economic construction and the upbuilding of the nuclear force was all the more a righteous one, and it pushes us to speed up the efforts to accomplish the cause of completing the state nuclear force." It was the use of the word dotard that bowled the US President middle stump.
Dotard is an obscure insult used to describe "an old person, especially one who has become weak and senile." Very few knew what dotard meant. The president himself helped them understand it with another of his tweets. That tweet read: 'Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!' That tweet opened the floodgate of tweets from the President's critics who dug into the meaning of the word to further explain both implicitly and explicitly what the little-used insult actually meant. To most people's surprise, it actually described Trump the way that many of them think of him these days.
When President Donald Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton in last year's election, almost everyone except for his base of white racists mainly in the Republican Party was utterly surprised. But then in US elections, there have been presidents who no one had expected would even gain their party's nomination made it to the White House. Take for instance, Jimmy Carter whose mother had thought he was telling her that he was going to contest for becoming the president of some local or state-level organisation and had no clue that he meant to become the president of the United States.
And when Clinton decided to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party, no one in his party was interested because the elder Bush with his success in the First Gulf War and seeking a second term was running with a popularity rating in the 90 per cent. Other Democrats had thought that seeking the Party's nomination against the elder Bush would be a stupid thing to do. That was how Clinton, an obscure Governor of the obscure state of Arkansas, got the Democratic ticket and eventually became the President of the United States when the economy sank dramatically after he had clinched the nomination.
But once in the White House, the office helped turn every US presidential candidate in modern US history, however unknown before entering the election, to rise to the demands of the Oval Office, the most powerful political office in the world. All except the present incumbent who went to the White House very unexpectedly and has thus far failed to rise to the demands of the Oval Office. In fact, he has not just been the one no one expected to be nominated by his party and then one very few expected to win but also one who has singularly failed to rise to the demands of his office from where his predecessors have not just governed the country but dominated world politics. In fact, President Donald Trump has thus far tweeted away the glory and the power of his office.
With President Trump's term now already one-year-old, people are on the verge of forgetting how he made it to the White House because they are too deeply concerned with what he was doing to it. On his recent 12-day long trip of Asia that took him to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and China and finally, to the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines, Americans found that their President was not the leader that his predecessors used to be. In fact, political and strategic analysts based in the region have left little doubt that the messages that the President gave, on strategic issues, on trade, on bilateral, regional or world issues, et al, were followed seriously but no leader or country or regional group were in any immediate hurry to act by his suggestions, threats, proposals, advice, etcetera because they were not sure if he would be around long enough.
His tweets that he thought would make his efforts to be the president of the United States, not just easy but also fun, are becoming the reasons why Americans are waking up to the fact what he has done to their country's position in the world. America is no longer being taken seriously. That there would ever be a world where the US President would be conducting his national and international business on tweets would have been something that only those living in the mental asylums would have believed. Now Americans are living in the world where their President is conducting the most serious of his official business through the Twitter.
Twitter is no part of the White House. It is a private sector organisation based in San Francisco. And it is also not an organisation upon which the US Government has any influence. What if the owners of Twitter were to suddenly decide they were closing shop? Or they equally suddenly decided that they would block the President's tweets? In fact, Twitter was forced to explain publicly whether one of the US President's latest tweets about North Korea that it "might not be around much longer" was not a declaration of war or abusive behaviour to demand his Twitter account be blocked. Although Twitter decided it was neither, nevertheless, that the US President had brought his actions to such a level where a private organisation has to defend him that his behaviour was not a declaration of war or abusive said a lot to the low levels to which the US President had brought the US presidency.
President Trump's use of the tweets is downgrading his office. This was obvious in his deliberations in ASEAN. In the last ASEAN meeting when President Obama was in office, the USA and the ASEAN nations were united under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) against China. That unity has vanished with the new President's decision to take USA out of the TPP. His tweets have confused these ASEAN nations on where the US stands on trade. One analyst has said that his tweets precede any firm articulation of US policy and therefore make it unsure to where the US stands on trade issues leading these ASEAN nations to fend for themselves bilaterally and collectively keeping the US out of the loop till they see concrete policies back what the President tweets. That has seldom happened.
President Trump's tweets have caused a major loss of face for him and his country on one major international issue, for sure. His mindless and often senseless tweets have given North Korea the chance to expose the type of President the US voters have elected whose threats have turned out as empty ones. In fact, those threats expressed by the President in his tweets have given them the opportunity to reassert to the world that North Korea was not just moving ahead with their nuclear ambitions confidently but also to call the US President as a dotard. It was an insult with which many in the US and outside, notwithstanding their dislike for North Korea and its leader, did not seem to totally disagree.
The writer is a former Ambassador.
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