Editorial: For the good of America, reign in your tongue Mr. President

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden of the White House. AP PHOTO

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Across four days last week, President Donald Trump’s angry rhetoric ratcheted up tensions on the world stage — his verbal assault on North Korea was particularly bellicose during his maiden speech at the United Nations — and nationally with his declaration Friday that National Football League players who protest during the national anthem should be fired.

Trump’s speeches and tweets during the past week reinforce his image as an ego-driven man who uses words to inflame and divide rather than to unify and heal, casting aside the dignity of his office.

During a 42-minute speech Sept. 19 at the United Nations, Trump made repeated references to “sovereign” nations pursuing their own interests, echoing his “America First” approach to foreign policy. “As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”

Trump then used the U.N. General Assembly as a bully pulpit to elevate his war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, derisively referring to him as “Rocket Man”: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Appropriately, there was criticism of Trump’s tone. “This was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told the BBC.

Not surprisingly, Kim fired back Thursday, labeling Trump a “mentally deranged dotard” who needed to be tamed “with fire.”

Day by day the threats grew grimmer, with North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho telling the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that the U.S. mainland would be targeted with rockets. That prompted this Trump tweet Saturday: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

By Monday, Ri told reporters that those words were a “declaration of war” by the U.S. against his country, giving North Korea “every right” under the U.N. charter to take measures “including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers even (if) they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”

We hope that Trump understands it is in the best interest of the U.S., as well as the rest of the world, to rein in his tongue and follow the lead of China, which Monday called for cooling tensions with diplomacy and by following the U.N. resolutions tightening international sanctions against North Korea.

During a rally Friday night before a largely white audience in Alabama, Trump turned his attention to the NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem during the past year to protest social injustices. Almost all of the protesting players are black.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said.

The response was swift and emphatic. The NFL issued a statement Saturday denouncing the president. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a friend of Trump’s who donated $1 million to help pay for his inauguration expenses, said, “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president,” adding that he defends the right of his team’s players to “peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most respectful.”

In their first visible show of participation in the protest this year or last, 16 Patriots kneeled during the anthem, while others, including quarterback Tom Brady, locked arms in solidarity.

Last week, across the league, only six players knelt. On Sunday, about 150 sat, knelt or raised their fists, with many saying they were defending their right to protest. And that is a right that all Americans should defend, despite the president’s tone deafness.