Ted Deutch faults lack of Donald Trump leadership on North Korea

As President continued to escalate his rhetoric about North Korea on Friday, , said the president’s comments are making the situation worse.

“Obviously we want to deter North Korea. We want to make sure that they understand the full power of the United States. That’s an important message for the president to send. But it’s got to be part of a broader effort to rein in the North Koreans. This isn’t just some sort of showdown moment,” said Deutch, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. “There’s not clear leadership coming out of the White House on this.”

Deutch discussed North Korea at an in an interview with the Sun Sentinel editorial board about two hours after the president’s early Friday pronouncement on Twitter. Trump tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-Un will find another path!”

The president began ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea on Tuesday, pledging that the United States would ” if he believed the country posed a danger to the U.S.

The problem with the president’s comments, Deutch said, is that they don’t do anything to defuse the situation.

“The rhetoric itself is not necessarily the dangerous part. It’s the way he just throws out the aggressive language without tying it to anything,” he said.

“The reason that I think his actions, his language, puts us at risk is I think in foreign policy — especially when dealing with a Stalinist regime, a totalitarian leader — there has to be American leadership,” Deutch said. “And both Kim Jong-Un and our allies and the American people need to know what we intend to do.”

And, he said, he’s troubled that all accounts of the president’s initial comments said they weren’t some sort of thought-out plan, but instead were a spur of the moment expression.

“I do not think that it advances our diplomacy or our national security to suggest that we might somehow launch a preemptive nuclear strike. That’s the difference,” he said.

During the 2016 election campaign and since Trump became president, Deutch has been a sharp critic of him. But, he said, he was willing to give credit where appropriate. He lauded the Trump administration’s successful push for international sanctions on North Korea last weekend at the .

“That’s exactly what we ought to be doing,” Deutch said, adding that he was disappointed that the president didn’t give the sanctions some time to work.

Deutch also said he takes some solace in the more measured comments coming from the top officials who advise Trump: the secretaries of state and defense and the United Nations ambassador.

With Congress taking its August recess, Deutch has been throughout his district, which takes in most of Broward and southeastern Palm Beach County.

“The top of everyone’s mind now is North Korea,” he said. “People are really concerned.”

Though the president retains strong support among his core backers, Deutch said he has been hearing disappointment from some of his constituents who voted for Trump and are now dismayed that he hasn’t brought about the promised change.

Bob Levinson

Deutch said he still hopes for the return home of a decade ago.

Levinson, a former agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI, was working for the when he planned a trip in 2007 to Kish Island, a resort island that is a part of Iran and located in the Persian Gulf just off the Iranian mainland where he was trying to cultivate an informant for the CIA.

Years of congressional and presidential efforts to get information and action on Levinson have, so far, not yielded results.

“There is reason to believe that he’s still alive. And that’s absolutely that’s enough, that’s good enough for me,” Deutch said.

“It’s good enough for all of the people who know him and care about him and love him. There’s an obligation after all he did for our country, there’s an obligation on the part of the government I believe to work as hard as they can to bring him home.”

Deutch said he’s raised the subject of Levinson with top national security officials, including the U.N. ambassador, secretary of state and CIA director.

“I’m heartened by what I heard and the approach that they’re taking,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making sure that with everything else going on in the world … that they focus on that until Bob comes home.”

2018 elections

Deutch said the midterm elections provide “an incredible opportunity for the Democrats.”

He said the three people already running for his party’s nomination for governor are “really talented candidates,” and, like other people who watch politics, said more candidates are possible.

Deutch said his party’s nominee has a good chance at winning the governor’s race for the first time in more than two decades, partly because he thinks the Republicans will nominate a candidate who’s too conservative.

Nationwide, he said Democrats are fielding a strong group of candidates as they attempt to wrest control of the House from Republicans.

“There is a president who has shown time and time again through his actions, his statements and his tweets that he’s willing to reach out to his base of support to keep them happy, even if it means sowing fear and antagonizing everyone else — and everyone else represents a majority of the American people.”

Independent analysts rate Deutch’s district as solidly Democratic. The registered voters are 42 percent Democratic, 29 percent Republican and 29 percent no party affiliation/independent voters. In 2016, Trump won Florida by 1.2 percentage points, but Democrat Hillary Clinton won the 22nd Congressional District by 16 points.

said in June he’s considering challenging Deutch.

Writing on Twitter this week, Manjarres criticized Deutch for “ignorantly” saying Trump’s “fire and fury” remark put U.S. troops in Asia at risk. Manjarres also said the president “needs to squeeze the kimchi out of North Korea through sanctions” and pressure the and China to do the same.

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