There are ways in which Donald Trump is a kind of Dorian Gray’s portrait of J.F.K. — with the same appetitiveness and clannishness (swap Ivanka for R.F.K.) and personal secrets (tax returns for Trump, medical records for Kennedy), but without the youthful looks and eloquence and a patina of intellectualism and idealism to clean those failings up. And in the Korean crisis as in Cuba, our new president’s obsession with looking tough risks making an already dangerous situation worse.
Of course the differences are manifold. The nukes are Kim’s this time, whereas they weren’t Castro’s, so despite China’s crucial role we ultimately have to deal with the thirtysomething’s regime more directly. The weapons’ purpose is blackmail and self-protection, with no Cold War grand strategy involved. The U.S. military seems more likely to be a restraining force in this crisis than a hawkish one.