Three Missiles and a Pardon: Timing Is Everything

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. PHOTO CREDIT: Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters

While most pundits pursue the theory that Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio is a deviously-timed event under cover of a major hurricane, there is a another reason for the timing of his Executive action.

Hours before Trump issued his pardon news broke that the North Korean regime had launched three missiles into the Sea of Japan. Reports varied on the range and the success of the projectiles.

However, what is definitive is the complete silence of Trump, who had raised the spectre of “fire and fury” raining down on North Korea should it dare to issue a threat or launch a missile. That ultimatum was less than a month ago.

Immediately after the latest launch, Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, said it may have included a ballistic missile.

Reports from South Korea’s military command identified them as short-range missiles and said that the “first and third missiles flew 150 miles before falling into the sea.” They also reported that the “second missile appears to have blown up almost immediately.”

The U.S. Pacific Command originally reported that two of the missiles blew up immediately. It later changed its version to match the one released by South Korea.

Meanwhile the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) determined the missiles “did not pose a threat to North America.”

The terse statement from NORAD lessens the fear of a hit on the mainland. What it does not convey is the fact that those three missiles were entirely capable of reaching into South Korea where U.S. troops are stationed. So, even though the missiles did not pose a threat to North America or Guam or our ally, Japan, they certainly had the range to strike our military bases and South Korea.

According to a NY Times article, their range of 155 miles “would be far enough to reach major South Korean and American military bases, including those near the city of Pyeongtaek, about 60 miles south of Seoul.”

In other words, these missiles posed a credible threat to United States military forces.

As this news was coming out, Trump was boarding a helicopter for Camp David on yet another vacation with his spouse, youngest son and two grand kids. Just three days before at a fractious rally in Phoenix, he boasted that Kim Jong-un, the autocratic leader of the small nation, was “starting to respect us,” adding that perhaps his threat of fire and fury was not “strong enough.”

“And you see what’s going on in North Korea,” Trump said. “All of a sudden, I don’t know, who knows, but I can tell you, what I said, that’s not strong enough. Some people said it was too strong. It’s not strong enough.”

Trump’s impression that his fiery rhetoric gained him the respect of Kim Jong-un is not reciprocal. KNCA, the mouthpiece of Jong-un, demolished that with a personalized assault hours later. Trump’s Twitter posts, it wrote, are “weird articles of his ego-driven thoughts” and “spouts rubbish to make his assistants have a hard time.”

To punctuate that total lack of respect, Kim Jong-un released his three missiles.

In normal times, the aggression from North Korea is expected as a response to the U.S.-South Korean military drills now taking place. These are not normal times. We in the United States have a commander-in-chief who cannot resist boasting of his prowess – in any  shape and form – and whose official acts are determined by a policy of saving face and revenge.

This drive to beam in the spotlight and defuse any criticism is likely why Trump pardoned Arpaio when he did – after news broke of the missile launch. He needed to avert what would be front page, breaking news. Without the Arpaio pardon to steal the headlines, Americans would be glued to the destruction in Texas and the potential danger coming from Pyongyang. Even more upsetting for this president, the coverage would carry the full frontal ridicule and disrespect by Kim Jong-un.

In these most abnormal of times, Americans are faced with the president’s abhorrent pardon of a racist or his start of a catastrophic nuclear war. More importantly, what future measures will this egocentric man take to preserve his inflated persona? What happens when there is no Joe Arpaio? How will he strike out then? Who will he sacrifice?

 

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