Once again, Donald Trump both alarms and entertains us. In response to Kim Jong-un’s claim about having a “nuclear button” on his desk, the President tweeted: “I too have a nuclear button but it is much bigger and more powerful than his, and my button works.”
The sight of the President getting into a willy-waving contest with the North Korean dictator over the size of their respective nuclear arsenals, and threatening by implication the death and destruction of millions, has been seized on by the legion of Trump critics as yet further evidence of the man’s complete unsuitability for the highest office in the world. Are they right?
There is no doubt that his boast, however outlandish, has force.
Although there is no actual button in the Oval Office, the President in a matter of minutes could authorise, with the codes he carries on him, the release of more than 900 nuclear warheads from various submarines, missile silos and aircraft based around the world.
In theory he can do so alone and without any check, as the US Commander-in-Chief — though some who have held senior office in the US question whether this would actually be allowed to happen if the country was facing no obvious imminent attack.
Nor is the Trump threat out of the blue.
Previous presidents would also have warned sabre-rattling North Korean leaders of terrible nuclear retaliation but they would have been much more veiled and diplomatic and — frankly — dull. Trump, as the master of social media, has captured the world’s attention (and, we presume, Kim Jong-un’s) with a more colourful and outrageous outburst.
But beneath all the noise, US policy is the same.
With an unpredictable dictator in Pyongyang intent on increasing his nuclear capability, and with no palatable conventional military options available, deterrence is the best means of containment while the US and potential partners like China try to find a way to deal with the North Korean threat.
There is some method in the Trump Twitter madness.
Toby Young’s views
Those on the Right of politics are entitled to feel that too many of the appointments in the British education system are made from the Left.
We should hear more from the sponsors of successful academies, the pioneers of free schools and the critics of an education establishment that for two generations now has presided over the country’s failure to educate enough of our children adequately.
But should those voices include Toby Young’s? He has been appointed to the board of the new Office for Students, a body which will regulate universities.
The objections of various unions and others that he doesn’t come from the higher education sector can be dismissed.
We want people with a range of experience on the boards of our public bodies, and Mr Young has established credentials as the founder of four free schools who now runs an education charity.
It’s all the other things Mr Young has been up to that raise questions. He seems to have an obsession with commenting on the anatomy of women in the public eye.
He has dismissed the “inclusion” agenda in schools as pandering to the likes of a “functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six”. And as recently as 2015, he supported offering a form of eugenics to “parents on low incomes with below average IQ”.
As we report today, minister Margot James says it’s a “mistake” for Mr Young to “belittle sexist comments” by dismissing them as “politically incorrect” — a term Ms James rightly says is “frequently used to dismiss unacceptable comments about ... women and minorities.”
She says this shouldn’t disbar him from office. But with no Commons majority, would the Government really win a motion that objected to his appointment?
And would a Tory Party struggling to connect with metropolitan Britain want to go down to defeat defending Mr Young?
We shall see.