Trump’s mysterious ‘calm before the storm’ comment keeps everyone second-guessing
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Trump’s mysterious ‘calm before the storm’ comment keeps everyone second-guessing

The US president has ignored follow up questions to his remark and has refused to divulge whether he meant North Korea, Iran, Syria or the Islamic State .

world Updated: Oct 07, 2017 16:00 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,North Korea,Iran
Donald Trump on October 6, 2017, winks at a reporter who asked him to elaborate on his "calm before the storm" comment. (NYT)

Could US President Donald Trump just have been “messing” with the press when he shot off the mysterious “calm before the storm” comment? Was he subtly giving a nod to a general perception of the “madman theory” — that he says crazy things to keep people guessing?

Trump’s remark came at a dinner with military leaders on Thursday. While posing for a picture with them and their spouses, Trump had pointed to the room and asked reporters if they knew “what it represents”.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” he said.

He ignored follow up questions and refused to divulge whether he meant North Korea, Iran, Syria or the Islamic State — four entities he had repeatedly attacked on Twitter since become president. “You’ll find out,” he simply said.

Trump followed that line of thought on Friday, when reporters asked him about his cryptic remark at a White House event. “You’ll find out,” he said.

Questions about his remark dominated the daily White House briefing on Friday, with reporters returning to in different ways to get some clarity from an evasive press secretary Sarah Sanders, who seemed as much in the dark about it everyone else.

Second-guessing Trump is one of possibly the most tricky adventures for anyone to undertake in this White House. He is known to contradict his spokespersons and aides with both words and actions.

Asked if Trump was referring to military action, Sanders hedged, “As we’ve said many times before... we’re never going to say in advance what the president is going to do. And as he said last night, in addition to those comments, you’ll have to wait and see.”

To another question, if US citizens and adversaries should take those remarks seriously, Sanders said, “I think you can take the president protecting the American people always extremely serious.”

In reply to a general query about the administration having exhausted diplomacy, Sanders offered up North Korea, unprompted, “We’re continuing to put maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on countries like North Korea. We’re going to continue to do that. But at the same time, the President is going to keep all of his options on the table.”

So, was Trump referring to North Korea? Sanders reeled herself back saying she had cited the country only as an example, and added ominously: “There are several examples there.”

With the spokesperson unable to furnish a satisfactory response, reporters fell back on the “madman theory” — could he have subscribed to that? Sanders agreed: “He certainly doesn’t want to lay out his game plan for our enemies. So if you’re asking, is the president trying to do that — absolutely.”

Or could Trump be messing with the press? “I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” Sanders said. “I think we have some serious world issues here. I think that North Korea, Iran both continue to be bad actors.”

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 16:00 IST