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I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT I AM

Past US presidents’ insults of North Korea now seem quaint

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
“You’re a weenie! No, you’re a weenie!”
By Sarah Kessler
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Rocket Man!

Mentally deranged US dotard!

Madman!

No, this isn’t the taunting dialogue of schoolyard bullies. It’s the latest discourse between the president of the United States and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

As North Korea escalates its nuclear threats and the US responds with new sanctions, dialogue between the two countries’ leaders has devolved into a name-calling match that some consider dangerous.

Relations between the US and North Korea has never been exactly friendly, but American presidents have generally adhered to diplomatic norms in avoiding personal attacks, even when they are making clear threats. The few personal insults that US presidents have directed toward North Korean leaders seem, by today’s standards, almost quaint. Reports the New York Times:

Mr. Bush once told senators that Mr. Kim’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, was a “pygmy” who acted like “a spoiled child at the dinner table.” But he did that in private. President Barack Obama made a point of ignoring Mr. Kim and his son.

George Bush grouped North Korea with Iraq and Iran under the label “axis of evil,” which is hardly a compliment, but neither is it a personal insult. Ronald Reagan said that North Korean communists would “lie, cheat, and steal,” which is a bit more insulting, but still falls short of name-calling.

“This kind of bluster and bombast that we hear from Donald Trump is not calculated,” presidential historian Robert Dallek told the Times, ”and it is not how presidents have generally dealt with these threats.”

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