Americans are somewhat used to their president's slightly eccentric behavior by now, but Donald Trump really took it to the next level during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. Trump's nickname for Kim Jong Un, Rocket Man, managed to get slipped into his speech, and the nation seems to have experienced a collective face-palm moment. But even more upsetting than the nickname is the policy proposal that hid behind it, and that's what the global community needs to be focused on.
The highly anticipated event was followed by Americans across the country, who both immediately recognized and commented on Trump's nickname for Un. Trump actually first used the moniker in a tweet on Sunday, but it seems he was actually just language testing for his speech.
"'Rocket Man.' Really, Donnie? At the U.N.? In front of the entire world? The POTUS is a petulant, immature child. #embarrassing," one person tweeted.
"@POTUS inserts Rocket Man reference into speech, marking first time Elton John tune has been inserted into an UNGA address," former Obama campaign manager David Alexrod jokingly noted.
What was slightly lost in the shuffle is what Trump said about North Korea shortly thereafter — "[The United States] will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea [if they don’t change].”
On the one hand, it makes sense to keep highlighting Trump's behavior during the speech instead of his stated plan for North Korea. Evidence shows that people don't support politicians based on their policy, but rather a combination of the voting environment and the candidate himself. In theory, it makes sense that by pointing out how unpresidential Trump behaves over and over again, people might finally give up on him.
Trump, however, has proven himself largely immune to these types of character attacks. For whatever inexplicable reason, people like his style. That's not going to change now, especially for those supporters who have stood by Trump's persona all this time. The only option left then becomes trying to explain why Trump's plan to eviscerate North Korea is counterproductive to American interests, which should be easy considering how phenomenally disastrous it could be for foreign policy going forward.
There are innumerable reasons why it would be a bad idea to go to war with North Korea, not least because the United States doesn't particularly have any allies in this fight right now. China hasn't proven to be as committed to scolding North Korea as Trump had hoped, and even South Korea is hesitant to support Trump's displays of aggression. With other foreign vulnerabilities, namely Russia, Syria, and Afghanistan, the U.S. can't afford to get involved in another region, especially without backup.
Indeed, the choice to include the demeaning, reductionist nickname in the speech was politically questionable for the Trump administration, since they really need the international community on their side if the North Korean conflict continues to escalate. Trump can say all he wants that he's going to attack North Korea, but unless he's got other countries backing him, he could get dragged before the International Criminal Court. North Korea is still a UN member nation, and although the U.S. inarguably holds more international sway, the nation's global reputation has taken a hit since Trump came into office.
The ties that once bound the United States to the international community are coming loose, thanks to this radical new presidency. That means more than ever, it's up to the American people to keep their government accountable for its actions, and to make sure that detailed attention to policy is a national priority. People can't get distracted by Trump's raunchy or inappropriate rhetoric — the consequences could be millions of innocent lives.