Nicholas Kristoff calls Trump scary and reckless. Somehow he missed eight years of Obama’s incredibly scary and reckless behavior.
The only time I ever take Nicholas Kristoff seriously is when he writes about the horrors of obstretric fistula. It’s a dreadful affliction and there are charities that are trying to help. Outside of that laudable crusade, though, Kristoff’s columns usually run the gamut from silly to hysterical to just plain wrong.
Yesterday, Kristoff hit the trifecta, when he wrote an article that manages simultaneously to be silly, hysterical, and wrong. In it, he makes the ludicrous claim that Donald Trump is such an irrational gambler that he’s more to be feared than Kim Jong-un, the man who’s had his perceived political enemies fed to starved dogs.
John Hinderaker does an admirable job of fisking Kristoff. You should read his entire fisk, but here’s a taste:
Kim, who is widely considered to be crazy, has several times threatened a nuclear attack against the United States. There is no question about his ruthlessness: among others, he has ordered his uncle and his half-brother murdered.
Currently the Trump administration is putting pressure on North Korea, and is trying to work with China to find a way to defuse the North Korean threat. In this scenario, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof finds one of the adversaries “scary.” Kim Jong Un? Don’t be silly! Donald Trump.
So Donald Trump is a “deeply frustrated rogue president,” and therefore likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
What is remarkable about Kristof’s column (apart from the vituperative attitude toward our president, which is standard at the Times) is his frank admission that the Obama administration’s policies toward North Korea have failed:
It gets worse: while Obama pursued an impotent policy, Kim’s regime has been working on ICBMs. The time is not far off when North Korea will be able to devastate America’s West Coast:
So what is Kristof’s solution? He doesn’t have one. . . .
What Kristoff doesn’t understand and Hinderaker didn’t address, is the fact that Trump is anything but a risk-taker. As Scott Adams pointed out a long time ago in a post I can’t find, Trump is actually very risk averse. Ever since his first big bankruptcy, from which he learned a hard lesson, Trump invariably insulated himself from risk, including taking in partners who carry the risk for him. He’ll willingly walk away from deals that might leave him exposed. The “gambles” he does take are carefully calculated and, as his unexpected political rise shows, have a habit of going his way — which means he wasn’t really gambling at all.
As president, Trump’s used the military twice, both in ways that were spectacular yet carefully limited. They sent loud messages without obligating America to further action or risking American lives or interests. Trump believes that carrying a big stick that one uses swiftly and decisively to send a strong message is less risky than closing your eyes to trouble and wishing that it would go away. I tend to think he’s right.