Speed Reads

Time Capsule

Watch Trump discuss launching a pre-emptive strike on North Korea in 1999 and then today

The first time Donald Trump ran for president was in 1999, and as the late Tim Russert noted when he interviewed him on Meet the Press that year, "You say that you, as president, would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's nuclear capability." "First I would negotiate, I would negotiate like crazy," Trump said.

"I mean, we can talk about the economy, we can talk about Social Security — the biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation, and we have a country out there, North Korea — which is sort of whacko, which is not dumb, not a bunch of dummies — and they are going out and they are developing nuclear weapons," Trump said. "Wouldn't it be good to sit down and really negotiate something — and ideally, negotiate. Now, if that negotiation doesn't work, you'd better solve the problem now than solve it later, Tim, and you know it and every politician knows it, and nobody wants to talk about it. Jimmy Carter, who I really like, I mean he went over there, it was so soft — these people are laughing at us."

Russert said retired Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak and ex-Defense Secretary Les Aspin had warned against such a strike "because the nuclear fallout could be devastating to the Asian peninsula." "I'm not talking about us using nuclear weapons," Trump said. "I'm saying that they have areas that they're developing missiles." Russert circled back: "But if the military went out and told you, 'Mr. Trump, we can't do this ...'" Trump brushed that off. "You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington?" he asked. "Or do you want to do something now? You'd better do it now. And if they think you're serious — I deal with lots of people — if they think you're serious, they'll negotiate, and it'll never come to that."

Now that Trump is president, this is how that strategy looked on Tuesday.

Maybe there's been some crazy negotiating with North Korea we don't know about.