Yet, anyway — Donald Trump’s not setting policy through Twitter yet. Incoming counselor Kellyanne Conway tells George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America that the president-elect’s tweet declaring that North Korea will not be allowed to successfully test-launch an ICBM does not represent American policy, because Trump isn’t the president. Yet.
Trump is putting the Kim regime on notice, Conway says:
Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said this morning that while the president-elect is putting North Korea “on notice,” he’s also “not making policy at the moment” regarding his tweet that North Korea will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.
Trump’s tweet referred to the annual New Year’s address given by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in which he said that his country is in the “final stages” of preparing an intercontinental ballistic missile, which can deliver a nuclear weapon. …
Conway categorized Trump’s remarks about North Korea as a warning to North Korea against pursuing such ambitions, which she said “could be deployed to reach Seattle almost immediately,” according to experts who she did not name.
“The president of the United States will stand between them and missile capabilities,” Conway said of North Korea.
Regarding Korea, Conway tells Stephanopoulos that China will have to step up in keeping Pyongyang in its proper corner, and that the new administration will follow the sanctions path to escalate pressure on Kim. That hasn’t done much to keep Pyongyang from pursuing ICBM-mounted nuke technology, mainly because there isn’t much besides open warfare or revolution from within that can stop it. That’s why it’s so important to have prevented North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons in the first place, but the US fumbled that ball twenty years ago with the Agreed Framework deal. Unfortunately, that failure didn’t stop Barack Obama from cutting the same kind of deal with Iran, and it will have similar consequences in an even shorter time frame.
That being said, tweeting out contextless slogans probably won’t help either, although it might help build a “crazy man” persona that will force US adversaries to think twice about their own provocations. Since that strategy relies on the cool rationalism of a 32-year-old prince with no constraints on him, that seems less than comforting. What happens when we have two “crazy men” in a standoff? Er … let’s not answer that question.
Conway also deals with a couple of other issues. She mostly side-steps the “gutting” of the Office of Congressional Ethics, sensing that it’s a loser of an issue for the Trump administration, but does offer a generic reference to some of the abuses alleged that led to the change. Later in the morning, Trump openly criticized the GOP for this move, a position of which Conway was apparently unaware at the time — and the GOP reversed course just after noon today on the changes:
News: rules change to OCE has been pulled, just now at conference meeting in Capitol basement
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 3, 2017
It’s a little strange that Conway didn’t have Trump’s position on her radar screen before talking about it this morning. It won’t just be the media attempting tea-leaf reading over the next four years, apparently.
Conway offers a much more pointed response to the issue of Russian hacking. “Many people on TV try to conflate any Russian hacking that may have occurred with the election results,” Conway tells Stephanopoulos, “and that has been conflated, unfortunately, where people are still trying to find a reason why Hillary Clinton lost. You can’t deny it, because every other network, everyone who makes a statement about the Russian hacking these days are saying ‘Aha — and that’s why Hillary Clinton lost!'” Conway adds, “I think it was very embarrassing to the Clinton operation to have the content of those e-mails revealed to the country. That’s what they really don’t like about it — that they were questioning Hillary Clinton’s judgment. … It was a very uncomfortable situation.”
It certainly was — and it’s certainly curious to see the media get this focused on Russia’s hacking of a couple of private organizations, and yet barely mention China’s hacking of actual government agencies like OPM any longer. Which of these has the greater potential impact on American governance, and which is a handy excuse for an election outcome few predicted?