Ever since departing from his post as chief of the Department of Homeland Security in July to become White House chief of staff, retired general John Kelly has shown the world a pretty wide range of emotions. It's become something of a pastime, in fact, for people to pay extremely close attention to the retired Marine Corps general's facial expressions when his boss, President Donald Trump, is addressing other government officials or members of the press. Because sometimes moments like these happen: John Kelly didn't seem thrilled with Trump's U.N. speech, at one point photographed in the middle of a classic facepalm.
To be totally fair to Kelly, judging somebody's opinion of an entire speech on a couple of photos, individual snapshots in time, isn't entirely fair. As Business Insider notes, he looked perfectly alert, engaged, and attentive at other points of the speech, contrary to the slumped, distinctly disheartened vibe he gives off in the two images embedded below.
But for a man who spent more than 30 years serving in the armed forces, and is now charged with keeping the ever-chaotic Trump administration from derailing, it's not hard to see why the president's vehement, hostility-stoking speech might have been poorly received.
Again, is it fair to judge Kelly's entire opinion of Trump's performance on the basis of a couple of photos? Not really. But as a couple of photos go, boy are those ones compelling. The effect is enhanced somewhat by the sight of the president's wife, First Lady Melania Trump, seated a row ahead of Kelly, looking more or less unflappable. After all, having married him back in 2005, she has more experience being around her husband than any of his political aides or advisers.
Rest assured, anybody hoping to avert war with North Korea had plenty to close their eyes and rub their temples over. Trump's speech was perhaps most notable for a pair of lines he dropped out the North Korean state, one that sounded somewhat silly and childish ― calling Kim Jong-un "rocket man" and saying he's on a "suicide mission" ― and another that sounded extremely dire.
Specifically, Trump raised the specter not just of war with North Korea, but of the isolated nation's total destruction.
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.
Tensions have been escalating between North Korea and the U.S. for months, fueled by the former's repeated nuclear tests, and its reported progress in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that could theoretically deliver nuclear weapons across the globe. Needless to say, that's an eventuality that the U.S. isn't comfortable with, nor American allies in the region like South Korea and Japan.
To be clear, the rhetoric from North Korea ― such as promising that America will be turned into "a sea of fire" ― is not particularly new. North Korea has been making violent and hyperbolic threats against the U.S. for years. What's unusual is having an American president who seems willing to escalate rising aggressions, rather than try to tamp them down.
In short, if Kelly was indeed feeling a little incredulous at which he was hearing and watching, it's not hard to see why ― although it is undeniably the job he knew he was signing up for. It remains to be seen what will ultimately happen between the U.S. and North Korea, if anything, but these kinds of alarming statements being blared out on the world stage is the sort of thing that understandably concerns many people.