Media Demonstrate GOP Hypocrisy In Blaming Obama And Hillary Clinton For North Korea's Nuclear Testing

Media responded to Republican presidential candidates blaming President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb by explaining that George W. Bush was the president when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, and his “approach toward containing North Korea did not differ materially” from Obama's.

North Korea Claims Successful Test Of Hydrogen Bomb

AP: North Korea Claims Successful Test Of Hydrogen Bomb. The Associated Press reported on January 6 that North Korea claimed to have successfully carried out a nuclear test of a hydrogen bomb, drawing “worldwide skepticism and condemnation”:

The United States, South Korea and Japan agreed to launch a “united and strong” international response to North Korea's apparent fourth nuclear test, as experts scrambled Thursday to find more details about the detonation that drew worldwide skepticism and condemnation.

It may take weeks or longer to confirm or contradict the North's claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Even a test of a less sophisticated atomic bomb would push its scientists and engineers closer to their goal of building a warhead small enough to place on a missile that can reach the U.S. mainland. [Associated Press, 1/6/16]

Republicans React To Claim Of Nuclear Test By Condemning President Obama And Hillary Clinton

Republican Presidential Candidates Blame “Obama/Clinton Foreign Policy” For North Korea's Claim Of Hydrogen Bomb Test. A January 6 article from The Guardian showed that many Republican presidential candidates blamed President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the alleged nuclear test:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida led the charge with a late-night tweetstorm following news of the test, calling the detonation “just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy”.

“I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by,” Rubio said in a statement. “Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama's weakness. We need new leadership that will stand up to people like Kim Jong-un and ensure our country has the capabilities necessary to keep America safe.”

Rubio's critique was echoed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who decried Obama's “weak response” to North Korean nuclear aggressions under his watch. “Three out of the four nuclear detonations that the North Koreans have done have happened under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's watch,” Christie said during an appearance on Fox and Friends. “They have just not acted strongly at all around the world. This is just another example, piled on top of Iran, on top of Syria, on top Crimea and Ukraine ... this is what weak American leadership gets you.”

On CNN, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who has been labelled a “committed isolationist” on foreign policy by Rubio and other rivals for the Republican nomination, redirected the question of North Korean nuclear aggression to a criticism of the comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

“I would say that there are many parallels to the Iran agreement,” Paul said. “Many of us said that that's the danger of the Iran agreement - once they get nuclear weapons, it's hard to know what to do and how you will respond.”

The test, North Korea's fourth since first detonating a “fizzled” atomic weapon in October 2006, prompted other candidates to join the coalition of the willing on social media:

[The Guardian, 1/6/16]

Media Respond To GOP Accusations By Noting Republican President George W. Bush Failed To Stop North Korea's First Nuclear Test

Newsweek: “Republicans Rush To Blame Obama For North Korea's Nuclear Activity” But Don't Mention That North Korea Conducted Its First Nuclear Test Under Bush. A January 6 Newsweek article highlighted how “Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls were quick to blame President Barack Obama's 'feckless' foreign policy for allowing North Korea to build its nuclear arms capabilities” but didn't mention that Republican President “George W. Bush was the president of the United States when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006”: 

Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls were quick to blame President Barack Obama's “feckless” foreign policy for allowing North Korea to build its nuclear arms capabilities, following the isolated country's claims that it detonated a hydrogen bomb test on Tuesday.

GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush tweeted that the most recent test “shows danger of continuing feckless Obama/Clinton foreign policy.” But it went unmentioned that his brother, George W. Bush, was the president of the United States when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.

Decades ago, tensions rose among leaders in the U.S. and North Korea after satellite images emerged of a major nuclear complex in the reclusive country. By 1994, they negotiated a deal to freeze some of North Korea's nuclear programming.

But the pact fizzled during Bush's administration in 2002, after he questioned whether North Korea's leaders were keeping with the terms of the agreement. North Korea conducted its first nuclear test four years later in 2006. [Newsweek1/6/16]

CNN's Jake Tapper: George W. Bush “Took A Much Tougher Tack With North Korea” Than Obama, And “That Ended Up With North Korea Having A Nuke.” During the January 6 edition of CNN's The Lead, host Jake Tapper pushed back against the Republican claims that the Obama Administration's “feckless nature” has allowed North Korea to engage in nuclear testing, pointing out that former President George W. Bush “took a much tougher tack with North Korea” but “all that resulted with that was their first detonation of a nuclear device in 2006”:

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI):  [T]his isn't our only security threat because of the feckless nature of President Obama, and I would say Secretary Clinton's foreign policy, the reset with Russia, that hasn't worked. We certainly see China pushing and pushing and building islands and certainly being, you know, engaging in provocative actions with its neighbors. And we see Russia and Iran gaining greater influence in the Middle East. This is a less safe, a less secure, more dangerous world seven years into President Obama's administration. 

JAKE TAPPER (HOST): So we know now that President Obama's White House spoke with China. Our U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power says that the U.S. will be pushing consequences for North Korea in the U.N. Security Committee. What else do you think President Obama should be doing in response to today's news? 

JOHNSON: Well, why don't we heal our economy so that we can be strong economically so we can be strong militarily? We have to stop hollowing out our military. We've got to change our strategy from peace through withdrawal to actual peace through strength. That's going to be across the board strength, economically and militarily. But that will probably need a new commander in chief, a commander in chief that actually does believe that America is a phenomenal force for good in the world, won't apologize for America, will project our goodness and our strength to really keep the world a safer place, rather than a more dangerous one. 

TAPPER: Well, just to play devil's advocate here, sir, President Bush, George W. Bush, he took a much tougher tack with North Korea. And all that resulted with that was their first detonation of a nuclear device in 2006. President Clinton engaged with North Korea, President Obama's been pushing sanctions, what exactly works? You talk about there needs to be strength. I imagine you believe George W. Bush projected strength. That ended up with North Korea having a nuke. [CNN, The Lead with Jake Tapper, 1/6/16]

Reuters: Republican Presidential Contenders “Have Little Room” To Blame Obama Because His Approach “Did Not Differ” Much From Bush's. A January 6 article from Reuters pointed out that despite Republican claims that North Korea's nuclear proliferation is “a referendum” on Obama's presidency, "[a]nalysts said Republicans may have little room to maneuver since the Obama administration's approach toward containing North Korea did not differ materially from the one used by Republican George W. Bush's administration before it":

To Republican U.S. presidential contenders, North Korea's claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb may further make the 2016 race what they dearly want it to be: a referendum on President Barack Obama's foreign policy and, by extension, Hillary Clinton's.


The criticism on foreign policy has ratcheted up the pressure on Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee in November's election, to take a harder line on national security without handing Republicans more ammunition to argue that Obama's stewardship has been a failure.

Analysts said Republicans may have little room to maneuver since the Obama administration's approach toward containing North Korea did not differ materially from the one used by Republican George W. Bush's administration before it.

“They've been a headache for every Democrat. They've been a headache for every Republican,” Michael Rubin, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said of the North Koreans. “North Korea may be the last remaining foreign policy quagmire that hasn't been politicized in a partisan fashion.” [Reuters, 1/6/16]

Washington Post: Failure To Create An Agreed Framework By The Bush Administration “Led To North Korea Building And Testing Nuclear Weapons.” The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler explained that the Bush administration “terminated a supply of fuel oil that was essential” to the agreed framework to deter nuclear weaposn development by the North Koreans achieved under Bill Clinton's administration:

In 1994, the Bill Clinton administration negotiated an agreement with North Korea to essentially freeze its nascent nuclear program in exchange for the eventual construction of two light-water reactors. North Korea's program was clearly created to churn out nuclear weapons; the reactor at Yongbyon was not connected to the power grid and appeared only designed to produce plutonium, a key ingredient for nuclear weapons. The theory of the deal was that, with the plant shuttered and the plutonium under the close watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), North Korea would not be able to produce a bomb.

The deal was hugely controversial in Congress. Just as with Obama's Iran negotiations, Clinton structured the agreement so that it was not considered a treaty that would have required ratification by the Senate. As with Iran, there was also an international component, with South Korea, Japan and a European agency joining with the United States to create an organization to implement the accord.


So how did North Korea get its hands on the nuclear material? George W. Bush became president in 2001 and was highly skeptical of Clinton's deal with North Korea. The new administration terminated missile talks with Pyongyang and then spent months trying to develop its own policy.

Then intelligence agencies determined that North Korea was cheating on the agreement by trying to develop nuclear material through another method -- highly-enriched uranium. The Bush administration sent an envoy who confronted North Korea -- and the regime was said to have belligerently confirmed it.

In response, the Bush administration terminated a supply of fuel oil that was essential to the agreement -- and then North Korea quickly kicked out the U.N. inspectors, restarted the nuclear plant and began developing its nuclear weapons, using the material in radioactive fuel rods that previously had been under the close watch of the IAEA. Japan and South Korea, the key partners in the accord, were not happy with the decision to terminate the Agreed Framework, but there was little they could do about it.

After North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, the Bush administration tried desperately to negotiate a new accord with Pyongyang, including offering new concessions, but those efforts ultimately failed. The nuclear genie by then was out of the bottle. The issue was considered such a loser that the Obama administration has barely bothered to restart disarmament talks.


North Korea obtained the bomb not because of the agreement, but because the agreement failed. Presumably, North Korea would have gotten its hands on the plutonium sooner if not for the original agreement. [The Washington Post3/13/15]