President Trump’s first speech before the UN was vintage Trump, for better or for worse. One line in particular epitomized why some people love him and others loathe him: “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.” Accordingly, his speech drew enthusiastic praise as well as breathless condemnation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.”
In stark contrast, the leftwing Israeli standard-bearer HaAretz exclaimed, “Trump Delights Netanyahu With Belligerent and Nationalist Right-wing UN Speech.”
According to former UN Ambassador John Bolton, the speech was “the best of the Trump presidency.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Hillary Clinton told Stephen Colbert, “I thought it was very dark, dangerous, not the kind of message that the leader of the greatest message in the world should be delivering.”
To repeat: This was vintage Trump, for better or for worse.
Trump’s Speech a War Crime?
Others have already analyzed the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the president’s speech as a whole. Here, we’ll focus on his comments regarding North Korea. These comments drew the sharpest rebuke from his critics, including Chemi Shalev of HaAretz.
The subtitle to his article announced, “In threatening to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, Trump resorted to rhetoric once reserved for half-crazed despots from semi-developed countries.” As for calling Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man,” Shalev suggested that “Pyongyang could very well respond with another Elton John song, ‘Madman Across the Water.’”
Shalev even accused Trump of committing a war crime:
According to the laws of war and judgments rendered by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the threat of total annihilation is a war crime in and of itself. It will be welcomed in retrospect if it somehow succeeds in getting Kim to climb down from the ballistic missiles on which he is currently cruising towards confrontation. It will be seen as reckless and possibly cited in an indictment if it spurs Kim to further escalate his clash with Trump, as he’s done in the past.
Hillary Clinton wished that the president had been more diplomatic, “And not call him Rocket Man, the Elton John song, but to say clearly ‘we will not tolerate any attacks on our friends or ourselves.’”
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Author: Michael Brown