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Trump's War Games

October 12,2017 13:08

President Trump arriving at the White House in January, followed by a military aide carrying the “football” with nuclear codes. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Don't say that we weren't warned. In a September 2015 speech before the National ...

She continued, “But you did question his judgment in having control of America’s nuclear arsenal during a private meeting with supporters.”
Hillary Clinton warned during the campaign, in a foreign policy speech in June 2016, “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”
In July 2016, Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for his best-selling memoir “The Art of the Deal,” revealed to The New Yorker, “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”
He continued, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
That same month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia warned at the Democratic National Convention about “giving the nuclear codes to a man who praises Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.”
In August 2016, a Republican representative, Richard Hanna of New York, endorsed Hillary Clinton because, as he put it: “I think Trump is a national embarrassment. Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?”
By the time Clinton had her first debate against Trump, she had sharpened this nuclear attack line, but something about it still felt dull: “A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”
Something about all these warnings, while true, felt of another time, like they were happening during the Cold War, rather than tailored for an election about the culture wars. Still, a Fox News poll conducted a month before the election found that voters overwhelmingly trusted Clinton to do a better job making decisions about using nuclear weapons.
But enough Americans looked past these warnings, just as they pushed past so many others, to hand Trump the election. After all, the nuclear question was theoretical and academic, right? No, it wasn’t.
In fact, after the election, concern about Trump controlling our nuclear arsenal only congealed.
The worry is so real that in January, a Democratic representative, Ted Lieu of California, introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which is designed “to prohibit the conduct of a first-use nuclear strike absent a declaration of war by Congress.”
In May, The Washington Times quoted Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, as saying, “We do not trust him with our nuclear weapons arsenal” and “We do not want him to use nuclear weapons first in the North Korean standoff — not just there in Korea, but all across the planet.”
The article also quotes Markey as saying of Trump, “As his comments become more erratic and inconsistent on the use of nuclear weapons, we think it’s imperative for the United States Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority to have the power to determine whether or not these nuclear weapons are used first against any country.”
Trump continues his war of words and measuring of egos with Kim Jong-un of North Korea. While I still find the threat of a nuclear strike remote, it grows less and less remote with every passing day and every insult.
Kim Jong-un is irrational and unhinged, but so is Trump.
No matter whether I agreed with President Barack Obama’s policies or not, I never once worried that he might ignite a nuclear war. That assurance has now been removed. As my colleague Nicholas Kristof, who recently visited North Korea, said of the possibility of a war between our country and theirs, “War is preventable, but I’m not sure it will be prevented.”
This is what Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, meant when he talked to The New York Times last week. The Times reported that Corker charged that Trump was “treating his office like ‘a reality show,’ with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation ‘on the path to World War III.’ ”
Plenty of people tried to warn us about this moment, but not enough Americans took heed. To them, this was sky-is-falling hyperbole. The use of nuclear weapons was a thing of history and Hollywood.
But it is ever so clear that the threat is urgent and real and that the only thing standing between a nuclear strike and us is a set of short fingers that constantly type out Twitter insults.
If all this makes you uneasy, good. It should. Also, welcome to the club.

Presidential Election of 2016,United States Politics and Government,United States International Relations,United States Defense and Military Forces,Nuclear Weapons,Corker Robert Phillips Jr,Kim Jong-un,Trump Donald J,North Korea

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