AUGUSTA, Ga. — “Fire and fury”? Eugene Yu could not have said it better himself.
Mr. Yu, 62, who emigrated here from South Korea, is an American citizen, a United States Army veteran and a staunch supporter of President Trump. Like many conservatives in and around this midsize Southern city – home to the Masters golf tournament and an important National Security Agency cryptology center — he was not scared, but rather thrilled this week when President Trump used those exact words to threaten the North Korean government.
That, Mr. Yu said, is the only kind of language a dictatorship understands.
“All of these North Korean experts in Washington — if they are so expert on the North Korean issue, we would have never been dealing with this today,” Mr. Yu said Thursday from his table at a busy Golden Corral cafeteria. “We should have been dealing with this 10 years ago. They’re still saying, ‘We’ve got to have six-party talks, we’ve got to give this, we’ve got to have that.’ We’ve had enough.”
Criticism of Mr. Trump’s emphatic rhetoric came this week from foreign leaders, policy experts, some Washington Republicans, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, and others, who called it a break with decades of carefully measured American diplomatic language in dealing with the volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, what many grass-roots American conservatives heard was not a brash provocation, but a brave and unequivocal calling out of a bully.
That feeling was widespread among dozens of Republicans encountered this week. Many said they were pleased that Mr. Trump was sticking to the kind of blunt, bracing talk that they heard on the campaign trail.
Most of them said they did not relish the idea of any armed confrontation with North Korea, although a few said they felt protected by the vastness of America.
“It doesn’t concern me,” said Zach Lozier, who was tucking into a barbecue dinner with his family Thursday at the Morgan County Fair in Brush, Colo. “We live in the safest part of the whole country.”
But for many, the fact that North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that might be able to hit mainland America only underscored their contention that President Trump was right in confronting the Asian nation with tough talk now. And many said they did not think Mr. Trump’s language was necessarily moving the United States any closer to a nuclear confrontation in Asia: The North Korean president, Kim Jong-un, they said, seemed to be doing a fine job of that on his own.
“I believe that this idiot over there is trying to make a name for himself,” said Mr. Yu’s friend Ralph Barbee, Jr., 76, a Vietnam veteran and former host of a local fishing show who arrived at the Golden Corral in an SUV adorned with stars, stripes and a massive photo of Mr. Trump on the hood. “I believe if he fires one more missile, that’s the end for them.”
Mr. Barbee said he thought the president may have been speaking of something less cataclysmic when he initially warned North Korea from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., earlier this week, like a conventional-weapons strike to take out North Korea’s missile systems.
Many experts say that even a conventional strike comes with many risks, and could set off a bigger confrontation.
On Friday, Mr. Trump doubled down on his warning in subsequent comments, writing on Twitter that the United States military was “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
On Thursday, the conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh praised President Trump on his radio show for his display of machismo, contrasting him with his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“We don’t have a pajama boy who wears mom jeans who can barely throw a baseball, a first pitch, at a Nationals game, as president,” he said. “We have somebody out there who’s no-nonsense, and who’s not going to take this.”
Though a number of conservatives welcomed Mr. Trump’s language, seeing it as a break from decades of more subtle — and what they argued were failed — negotiating strategies pursued by both Democratic and Republican administrations, Mr. Obama’s efforts came in for special criticism.
Some Republicans did express fear over any escalation of threats. At a home-design store in Burlington, Wis., the owner, Mark Starzyk, 71, had been reading the headlines of his local paper, The Kenosha News, with alarm, torn between cheering Mr. Trump’s rhetoric — “Sometimes you’ve got to talk tough,” he said — and wondering where this is all going.
“I’m nonconfrontational,” Mr. Starzyk said. “I hope this ends in a peaceful resolution. There are no winners in a nuclear war. There’s so much collateral damage, no matter what, and the North Koreans have enough conventional weapons to light up Seoul.”
Out on Colorado’s eastern plains, an agricultural region where voters went overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, the response to the president’s remarks was one of support, with little fear of repercussions.
“He needs to step all over that little twerp,” said John Stout, 71, who sat with three retired friends over coffee at the Sinclair gas station in Wiggins, Colo., on Thursday. The other men nodded in agreement. “If it had been me up there,” Mr. Stout continued, “I’d have done it a lot quicker.”
Mr. Stout said he did not fear for his safety, and hoped that Mr. Trump would take action to “take out” the North Korean leader’s nuclear abilities.
“Hell yes,” he said. “And they can pinpoint it to where they are not killing a lot of innocent people. That will be the big goal there.”
Inside the halls of the Morgan County Fair, men in cowboy hats passed children wearing rodeo belt buckles the size of pancakes. And Jennifer Scott, 45, stood with her daughter, Piper, and Piper’s goat, Nemo.
She said that Mr. Trump’s stance on North Korea is exactly what she was hoping for. “I think we have to go guns blazing and let them have it,” she said.
As for how Mr. Trump should handle the Korean leader: “I think he needs to send some SEALs in to take care of him. As a private matter. I think he needs to go after that guy, and nobody will know about it.” She trusts the president, she said. “Trump, he knows very well how to play his cards right.”
In Augusta, residents are familiar with the nuclear age and its perils. At one point during the Cold War, the nearby Savannah River Site produced 40 percent of the plutonium for the United States nuclear weapons stockpile, and the presence of Fort Gordon ensures that the possibility of armed conflict is never viewed as an abstraction.
President Trump’s tough talk was a big topic this week on the local talk radio show hosted by Austin Rhodes, 52, a conservative. Mr. Rhodes said that the president had limited oratorical skills, and compared him to the rock singer Meat Loaf: “No matter what he sings, whether he tries to sing a Meat Loaf hit or opera, he’s going to be Meat Loaf.”
But in this case, he said, perhaps Trumpian bluster was exactly what was needed in response to North Korea as well as a number of troubled Middle Eastern countries, Mr. Rhodes said. “You need to be ridiculously blunt. Maybe this is the guy for the times, because Obama was not.”
North Korea was also on the minds of people in Martinez, Ga., an Augusta suburb, where the Columbia County Republican Women were holding a meeting in the back of a Chinese restaurant on Thursday night. In an opening prayer, a woman asked God to help make America great again. Attendees were encouraged to take one of the postcards pre-addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and write encouraging notes to the president.
United States Representative Rick Allen, of Georgia’s 12th District, spoke to the crowd, assuring them that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, knew “exactly what to do” in this situation.
“So you can sleep well,” he said.