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The War of Words Between President Trump and North Korea

What does a scholar of rhetoric make of President Donald Trump’s warnings to North Korea?

Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson recently appeared on KCRW’s “To the Point” and on the BBC radio show “Today” to discuss Trump’s Aug. 8 statement that North Korea “had best not make any more threats to the United States” or “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

On “To the Point” on Aug. 9, she discussed the implications of Trump’s rhetoric with host Warren Olney. Of Trump’s tendency for exaggeration, Jamieson noted that “when he uses strong rhetoric, you don’t know whether or not it’s calculated to communicate the strength that the rhetoric would convey with any other person, or whether it’s just simply Trump being Trump.” She also explained the importance of how media outlets cover such exchanges and what they choose to focus on, especially in a situation such as this where both Trump and Kim Jong-un are both “prone to hyperbole.”

Jamieson also discussed Trump’s statement on BBC Radio 4’s morning show, which aired Aug. 10. “It was unwise. The statement is imprecise, we don’t know where he’s drawing the line. It was not carefully vetted. It resulted in correction by two of his subordinates, two of the secretaries. All of that is problematic because it sends mixed signals.” She spoke about the importance of clear rhetoric and signalling on the international stage, noting that “Presidents of the United States shouldn’t bluff. If they make a statement they should honor it, or their credibility is called into question.”

The complete segment from KCRW’s “To the Point” is available here, or listen to the excerpt with Jamieson below:


Click here for for BBC Radio 4’s morning show “Today” on Aug, 10, or listen to Jamieson’s remarks below: