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New N.K. Statement: Trump Driving To Brink of Nuclear War; Trump Continues Attacks On Senate Majority Leader. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00]THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE": We want to create a situation where North Korea looks around and the entire world, including its neighbors, are against it and it's under a tighter and tighter sanctions noose.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: But how does that work, and I wonder what the Kim regime would think about that idea, Tom, because wouldn't they be looking at China and say opening up economically, opening up diplomatically?

Look at what's happened to China. I mean, certainly, you still have a communist regime there? But, arguably, there could be in North Korea if you do open up diplomatically and economically, then you're opening up what is a hermit kingdom, allowing North Koreans to see the outside world and realizing that things are not as their government has been telling them.

FRIEDMAN: Well, sure. I have very little belief the North Koreans would accept such an offer in the near term. But this is about what is a long-term sustainable strategy for tightening the noose and weakening their regime. They're not going to accept this -- such a proposal tomorrow.

But what it does do is give us the moral and strategic high ground to sustain economic sanctions for a very long time. That puts us in a much stronger position than we are right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, Thomas Friedman, you have succeeded where others have failed this morning. What you have said has prompted a response from the president. He just tweeted and he says the following.

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path."

So what is the virtue here? This speaks to the potential virtue of tough talk eliciting action, whether that's on the part of China and Russia as we saw at the U.N. Security Council where they voted for this latest round of sanctions. And that maybe matching rhetoric with the madman will make him think that you're speaking his language and maybe it will create some kind of progress.

That's what the president is suggesting. Do you agree? FRIEDMAN: Well again, Chris, I think you have to have a carrot and stick approach. The president put out some verbal sticks that made it very clear that this is a very dangerous situation and it does need to be taken seriously.

To me, though, now you want to put the carrot next to it that basically does one of two things. Either the North Koreans bite on it or it creates a situation where the entire world will see that this is a regime that is abjuring, that wants nuclear weapons more than it wants even sustainability that we are offering it to pull regime change off the table, to engage in diplomatic relations, to recognize this regime.

Chris, the most important point here is that we got into this situation over many decades. It's not going to be resolved tomorrow.

The questions you raised are legitimate. Why would North Korea accept it? Well, they're not going to accept it tomorrow.

What we need is a long-term strategy that gives us the moral high ground because we put a full peace treaty on the table if they relinquish their nuclear threat and gives us the strategic high ground because we surround them with missile defenses and we create a situation on the world stage where everybody is with us.

Maybe tomorrow or the next day, but over time that will change the calculations in North Korea and that's what you want to do. Ultimately, this has to come from within.

The other thing I like about this strategy is that it's an American strategy. We're not sitting around waiting for China to save our bacon, you know. This puts us and President Trump right in the driver's seat, and soI think it's the best long-term strategy I can conceive of.

KEILAR: All right. Tom Friedman, stay with us, sir.

Up next, you predict the president could become more popular despite historically low approval numbers. Explain that. He's going to, next.


[07:38:00] KEILAR: The latest target of the president's Twitter attacks is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. So does the president think McConnell should step down?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'll tell you what. If he doesn't get repeal and replace done; and if he doesn't get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform; and if he doesn't get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure -- he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Let's bring back "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman to talk about this.

And we should also mention that President Trump has been tweeting and he's been retweeting stories that are negative about Mitch McConnell. I mean, he really wants this shot over the bow to be heard time and again, Tom.

What do you make of this -- what's a back-and-forth but, really, there's a lot more coming from the president?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, the president seems to believe that he's a monarch, not a president. That he reigns, he doesn't govern.

So he has demanded that the Senate produce a repeal and replace on Obamacare and then sits up in Bedminster at his golf course and waits for it delivered as if the president has no role in this.

No role in a) having his administration come up with a credible plan for repeal and replace that the health care industry, the experts, the CBO would actually believe is implementable.

And then, no role in going out and generating the public support for it around the country because, clearly, the public supports Obamacare, still. And no role in shaping the political order in the Senate and the House to produce a majority.

So he's acting like a monarch and his surf, the Senate Majority Leader McConnell, isn't delivering, so off with his head. Well, it's good work if you can get it but it may work -- it worked in France, you know, in the 18th century but it's not likely to work here.

[07:40:03] CUOMO: And, you know, look, just to play with the metaphor a little bit, it's not a shot across the bow, it's at the water line.



CUOMO: The question is just whether or not he thinks it will sink him or it's going to torpedo him again. And whether that works politically is one type of battle.

But I do want to bring you back, Tom, just for a second to remind everybody if they're just tuning in right now what has happened on our watch.

The president had used heightened language that fire and fury may not have gone far enough. The DPRK -- North Korea has responded and they're saying that the president has pushed this situation to the brink of nuclear war, OK? Here's their statement.

TEXT: Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK. Now, some had seen this as actually a good sign -- that they had been measured by North Korean terms in terms of what they said. It doesn't sound so measured to me.

The president then just tweeted, "Military solutions are fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path."

You know, part of the confusion is here we're not used to the American president matching madness with North Korea. You know, well, we're going to do this to you and I'm going to do that to you. We don't -- we're not used to that.

But is there a way that it could be effective? Is there a chance that the president using the language of a madman to a madman could be effective? You're speaking his language. Maybe it will get you somewhere.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, Chris, I'm not ready to rule that out. I mean, the president sounding the alarm bell on this is not an entirely bad thing and I'm not ready to rule out that we've gotten China and North Korea's attention.

But the danger is -- the danger is, is if they stare him coldly back in the eye and say we're not blinking because we don't really believe that the fundamentals of this story have changed and that is we are not going to initiate a nuclear strike on the United States because our North Korean regime is homicidal, not suicidal. This family has not survived for three generations by being suicidal.

And the other thing that hasn't changed is that the United States cannot initiate a first strike against North Korea without risking tens of millions of people, including Americans, on the Korean Peninsula.

And if that's the case, then you want to very quickly marry your very heated rhetoric, which I don't disagree with in principle, with a real plan that North Korea either would bite on diplomatically or creates a situation in the world where the whole world sees North Korea as the problem and, therefore, they sign up for tighter and tighter sanctions.

So, higher rhetoric is necessary, Chris, for your diplomacy, but it's not sufficient. And maybe the president's tweet -- and who knows what he's thinking and how much of this is even vetted in a strategic way -- is the beginning of a shift in tone, I don't know. We'll just have to see how the day evolves.

KEILAR: As always, Tom, you have a very interesting take and this time it is on what Donald Trump can do to be more popular in your op- ed.

You say, quote, "Every character flaw he had before taking office, from his serial lying to his intellectual laziness to his loyalty just to himself and his needs, has grown only larger and more toxic as he has been president." So with that in mind as you say that, what can he do to be more popular, if you think there's a path?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I'm not his popularity coach and I don't care one way or another, myself.

But my point is simply with the Dow at 22,000 -- or was, you know, before this week at record highs -- and unemployment at 4.3 percent, you have to actually work at. You actually have to sit down and draw a plan to fail as president -- that is, politically. And this is a guy who has been leaking oil according to the polls, politically now, for the last seven months.

And so, it seem to me that one thing I think Democrats have to be careful of is that if you're just counting on Bob Mueller to take him down or if you're just counting on him to remain ridiculous and throw away, you know, the fact that the stock market is doing so well, the unemployment is doing so well, and continue losing support, that's a dangerous strategy.

That ultimately, Democrats need a compelling program and they need a compelling leader, and the idea that they can get power back on the cheap I think would be -- it may happen. Trump may be just so out of control.

The point I was making in that column is that a friend of mine was telling me that when a leader takes power one of two things happen. They either grow in office or they swell in office. And up to now, Trump has swollen. It has swollen all of his bad character traits.

But he's brought in John Kelly and I think, you know, Democrats better be careful. Maybe he will make him grow. Early signs are not good.

But I wouldn't simply rely on Bob Mueller and Trump's madness for a political strategy. I think, ultimately, Democrats have to win the argument with the American people that they have better ideas.

[07:45:05] And as I said in that column, some things are true even if Donald Trump believes them.


FRIEDMAN: And I think that's -- it would be wise for Democrats to say what are the things that are true even if he believes them? What are the things that we want that are true even though we believe them?

For instance, Obamacare is popular right now. The biggest win states in this country are all red states so environmentalism is still popular. And how do the Democrats get a hearing on the things that are true even though believe them? I think that's a very important long-term strategy they have to think about as well.

Trump can make you stupid. He can make you stupid as a journalist because anything you write about him gets attention. And he can make you stupid as a politician. You just drive by the White House and say Donald Trump and everybody laughs. But that kind of intellectual laziness over time can get the press in trouble and it can get politicians in trouble.

CUOMO: And as we've all learned, a lot of politics is momentum and one of the virtues of terrible poll numbers is incredible room for growth.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

CUOMO: So -- all right.

Tom Friedman, you are value added, my friend. Thank you for making our Friday. Appreciate it.

FRIEDMAN: I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So, the president is taking on his opponents in excellent fashion, as he sees it. That means North Korea, that means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In fact, he's doing it at the same time.

Is this working for him? It sets up a beautiful debate and we have it for you, next.


[07:50:07] CUOMO: All right. We have had a lot of action on the back of the president's words.

This morning, we've had his ratcheting up of rhetoric with North Korea provoke a response, and then a response again from the president.

The president just tweeted in response to North Korea, saying that he was pushing the situation to the brink of a nuclear war.

He said this. "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path."

Also, he's been retweeting articles about another opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and taking him on for -- blaming him for not getting the GOP agenda moving.

Let's discuss the effectiveness of these tactics. We've got CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Mike Shields.

Ana, let's start with North Korea because it has existential implications. The president says past presidents were weak, Obama wouldn't even talk about this -- that's not completely true.

But look, the situation has gotten worse. He says I will talk the talk and it does seem to be provoking responses from North Korea.

Do you believe this is working for the president and for the United States?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the question is working with who?

If the question is, is it working with his base, absolutely. I think a large part of the Republican base likes the bluster, wants to have a very strong position. Wants that position projected, not just in their minds but actually articulated, and I think he's doing very well with the base.

You see him doubling down on this because it's doing well with the base. The same with the Mitch McConnell thing. He likes to please that base.

If we've seen anything in the last six-plus months with Donald Trump is that he cares about what the base thinks. He caters to them, he promotes their loyalty, and they, for the large part, are remaining loyal.

Now, the rest of us in America might be scared, might be apoplectic.

Might wake up every morning wondering, you know, what to fear. Wondering what we're going to see when we look up Twitter. You know, have we gone into war? What is he dragging us into?

To me, it sounds like a "Yo Momma" contest between the guy from North Korea and the guy from the United States that's going to end up in what? What is the end game here? When are either of these two bluster-filled, bravado-filled, ginormous ego-filled two men going to stop and, you know, make this something that's got a real ending?

So, is it working with his base, yes. Is it working for the rest of us, we'll yet to see.

KEILAR: Mike, you have it going from fire -- fiery --

CUOMO: Fire and fury.

KEILAR: Fire and fury, now it's locked and loaded. He's not backing away it from it, as Ana is saying there. But it makes you wonder are these just going to be throwaway words that are just bluster and don't mean a lot or are these words that could down in history at some point?


I mean, it wasn't just the Republican base. The country elected a president who they wanted to have a stronger position in foreign policy. We had weakness leading from behind for the last eight years of the last president. The country wanted someone who projected strength.

And so, this administration actually has a policy that they're following, which is that the era of strategic patience with North Korea is over.

And one of the things that liberals -- I listened to Thomas Friedman and it was really interesting -- but one of the things that liberals never seem to understand is that diplomacy, just by words and sort of for the sake of diplomacy, is what got us here in the first place.

Bill Clinton gave the North Korean regime $4 billion of American money to help them buy energy to try and hold that little carrot out there that Thomas was talking about.


SHIELDS: Finally, we have a president that is saying we're not doing that anymore.

And diplomacy will not work unless you back it up with strength. Unless they believe there's a credible threat --

CUOMO: Mike, what does that mean, though?

SHIELDS: We haven't been able to do anything to stop this guy.

CUOMO: That's one of the things -- look, I hear you and, you know, with all due respect,I have heard it from other people on the right as well. I like it, it's strong. We need to be strong.

But this isn't battling with the Democrats, you know. What if you do have to do something?

Every military expert says the same thing, I don't need to lecture you about this. They say there are no good options. There are options. America's might is unquestionable.

But what do you do to back up your words if it comes to that, and shouldn't that be part of the calculation here?

SHIELDS: Well, sure. He's communicating with a crazy dictator in North Korea who's firing missiles at our allies and threatening to attack the United States of America. If he doesn't respond strongly to that, his reaction to that is you know what? Now that you've fired a missile near our allies and you might threaten Guam or Alaska, why don't we have a negotiation so we'll give you something more from what you want?

That signals -- that tells Iran, that tells a lot of regimes around the world the way to get things from us is to start acting crazy and threatening the rest of the world.

By saying no, we're not going to do that anymore -- your consequences -- your actions have consequences that are going to be destructive for you and now we're going to have to bring your allies into the conversation and push back on them is a new position -- it's actually a very strategic way to take a diplomatic approach by having strength before your diplomatic words --

[07:55:16] KEILAR: It --

SHIELDS: -- and that's a new policy and it's a policy that is -- look, we've tried everything else.

KEILAR: Mike, I want to get Ana in here before we have to go. SHIELDS: Sure.

KEILAR: I -- my question on that is, is that a belated conversation to have given where North Korean is now with its nuclear program? I mean, five years ago, maybe. Now? What do you think?

NAVARRO: Look, we are where we are and I think one of the things that gives me some comfort level is the idea that he's got very strong, very measured combat veterans like John Kelly, like Mattis around him who, hopefully, are taking a serious look at this.

Donald Trump has no idea what he's doing. Let's not even pretend that he does. This is a guy who, you know, went to military school and thinks that makes him a military expert. As far I'm concerned, it's like he's playing Battleship in between golf games at his golf course.

But he does -- he did have the wherewithal of getting some very seasoned combat veterans who do understand the world around them and hopefully, they will have an influence on what's happening.

KEILAR: Ana and Mike, thank you so much to both of you.

Strong words from North Korea to the U.S. and President Trump responding with a new threat.

We have the breaking developments covered around the globe. Stick with us.



TRUMP: If he does something in Guam it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the president's saying is making it much more challenging for us to have a successful end to this crisis.