Is Donald Trump wagging the dog over North Korea?

With problems at home, is Donald Trump purposely turning the media’s and public’s eyes towards the east?

The expression “wag the dog” comes from the 1997 film about a US president who uses a foreign war to distract his country from domestic problems, in his case a sex scandal.

With the BBC reporting that Donald Trump has said that North Korea could be met with “fire and fury”, followed by the east Asian country’s response that the US territory of Guam could be attacked, America’s foreign relations have heated up.

Wagging the dog implies that an issue, primarily to do with foreign affairs, is being used to distract from problems at home, so what problems are being faced by Donald Trump?

For starters, his approval ratings are atrocious. This is not some subjective measure of his presidency, but an objective one. Trump started off his presidency with roughly equal approval and disproval statistics, but they soon diverged. In fact, data gathered by political statistics site FiveThirtyEight indicates that Trump has the worst net approval rating for any US president since 1945. The numbers are a significantly damning account of his presidency.

On top of that, the Russia scandal is continuing the heat up. Just last week at the start of August, the BBC reported that a Grand Jury investigation was being set up to investigate Russian involvement in last year’s US election. The site reported that the Jury would be looking at a meeting between “Mr Trump's son, Donald Jr, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met a Russian lawyer.”

Furthermore, Trump has struggled to get his desired reforms to Obamacare after US representatives failed to back his proposed changes, as reported in the Guardian.

Add to that the seemingly constant hirings and firings of some of his top staff, there is little denying that Donald Trump is suffering big domestic problems.

Anthony Scaramucci At SALT Conference 2016

This is not the first time that Trump has been accused of wagging the dog. Back in April, Politico asked if Trump was wagging the dog in Syria, following his move to strike the war-torn middle Eastern nation.

Politico said that:

“It is hard to avoid wondering whether the purpose of the strikes was less to defend a red line that Trump had never supported than yet another effort by the president to distract the media’s attention and change the subject from his problems at home.”

Ben Garrett has also asked if Trump’s surprise series of tweets about transgender individuals not being allowed to serve in the military were used as a distraction from other pressing issues in a wag the dog moment. There is some merit to this. Although there was a huge backlash against the tweets, they dominated the headlines for days, drowning out potentially more damaging discussions.

So, is Donald Trump wagging the dog with North Korea? There is no denying that the man knows how to manipulate a news cycle. From day one of his candidacy for the Republican nomination his controversial comments grabbed him the headlines. The same thing happened throughout the election against Hillary Clinton, and during his first 200 days in office Donald Trump has used twitter to dominate the headlines. Just think how often you have turned on the news and the top story has been “Donald Trump has tweeted that…” followed by some striking comments.

While there is no way to tell for sure, Donald Trump’s tweeting has taken over the headlines, potentially distracting from other issues. As for the latest comments, which were not made on Twitter, but in person, about North Korea, are they a distraction from problems at home? Possibly.

While rhetoric is one thing, meeting North Korea with real “fire and fury” would be another. Is Donald Trump seriously considering going to war with Kim Jong-un’s nation? And is it to distract from his struggle at home? Only time will tell.

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