No presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy has spoken so much about using nuclear weapons. And no presidential candidate knows so little about them since Einstein handed Leo Szilard’s letter to Roosevelt in 1939.
Trump told Eric Bolling on “The O’Reilly Factor” Thursday “the last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump.” But he also said, “I don’t want to take cards off the table.” First of all, those two statements are mutually incompatible and make no sense.
Trump had an incomprehensible exchange with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s town hall.
TRUMP: No, no, but you can’t say — first of all, you don’t want to say, “Take everything off the table…”
MATTHEWS: No, just nuclear.
TRUMP: … because you’d be a bad negotiator if you do that.
MATTHEWS: Just nuclear.
TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly, possibly?
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in ’45, heard it. They’re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? We had (inaudible).
MATTHEWS: Because of the old mutual assured destruction, which Reagan hated and tried to get rid of.
TRUMP: (inaudible) I was against Iraq. I’d be the last one to use the nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: So can you take it off the table now?
TRUMP: Because that’s sort of like the end of the ball game.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we’re not using a nuclear weapon on anybody?
TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.
MATTHEWS: How about Europe? We won’t use it in Europe?
TRUMP: I — I’m not going to take it off the table.
MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?
TRUMP: No, I don’t think so. But I’m not taking…
MATTHEWS: Well, just say it. “I will never use a nuclear weapon in Europe.”
TRUMP: I am not — I am not taking cards off the table.
I will…I won’t…it’s a soup sandwich. But let’s deal with the more ignorant bits.
“Why are we making them?” We’re not, Donald. We stopped production of nuclear weapons after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. Ask your buddy Bill Clinton about it, because he ordered it. Some newly minted Ph.D. physicists who were looking forward to good jobs designing warheads at places like Livermore National Labs ended up rich beyond the dreams of avarice instead when those facilities scaled back–because firms like Goldman Sachs snapped them up to design trading algorithms.
Trump told Bolling “now our [nuclear] capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape.” Ridiculous. The Department of Energy is charged with ensuring that American’s nuclear stockpile is ready for use, in all circumstances. Every warhead is checked on a regular schedule.
United States: According to the March 2015 New START declaration, the United States has 1,597 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 785 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers . The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the United States’ nondeployed strategic arsenal is approximately 2,800 warheads and the U.S. tactical nuclear arsenal numbers 500 warheads. According to the U.S. State Department, the United States possessed 4,717 active nuclear warheads as of September 30, 2014 , including tactical, strategic, and nondeployed weapons. Additional warheads are retired and await dismantlement.
But “in bad shape?” No. While we’re technically not making “new” weapons, we’re always upgrading the ones we have.
The B61 Model 12, the bomb flight-tested last year in Nevada, is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise.
And this is the Obama administration making these improved bombs. No, Donald, I’m afraid that our nuclear capability is in better shape than it’s probably ever been when we had 20,000-plus warheads hanging around in various states of disrepair.
But that’s the heart of Trump’s phallic obsession with nuclear weapons. He told Playboy in 1990:
I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; it’s a very important element in my thought process. It’s the ultimate, the ultimate catastrophe, the biggest problem this world has, and nobody’s focusing on the nuts and bolts of it. It’s a little like sickness. People don’t believe they’re going to get sick until they do. Nobody wants to talk about it. I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen, because everybody knows how destructive it will be, so nobody uses weapons. What bullshit.
O.M.G. That’s seriously scary. The “issue of nuclear war” isn’t something that should be thought about a lot by a president. Not these days. The “football” is always there. The codes, protocols, weapons, NORAD under Cheyenne Mountain, the submarines, ICBM’s–yes, they’re ready for “the order.” But there’s a reason nobody talks about nuclear war, and it’s not because people are stupid and believe it will never happen.
It’s because people are sane and understand that it must never happen.
The use of nuclear weapons is inherently immoral. I’m not afraid to say that. The fireball doesn’t discriminate between innocents and warfighters. Gamma radiation doesn’t discriminate between children and soldiers. Radioactive waste clouds don’t discriminate between farmland and military installations.
There’s only one valid circumstance for the use of nuclear weapons: That they are being used against us. And even then, I’d want a president to consider the risks and potentially global consequences of escalation. The only reason we have nuclear weapons is because other countries have them and might not apply the same morality we do to their use.
Donald Trump just signaled to everyone in the world that he’d be the most immoral president ever to sit in the Oval Office, because everyone in the world will have to live with the threat of his nuclear nightmare. If I were Vladimir Putin, I’d take that to heart, and be more likely to threaten nukes because of it. If I were Xi Jinping or Narenra Modi or Nawaz Sharif or Benjamin Netanyahu, I’d be scared that America might actually start a nuclear war instead of prevent one.
Of course, Trump probably couldn’t name those leaders except for Netanyahu anyway.
And if I were Kim Jong-un, I’d feel validated. If it’s okay for Trump to leave Europe on the table, then Seoul is probably okay too. That would make Hwang Kyo-ahn nervous too, if Trump knew who he was.
I can imagine in Donald’s fantasy dreams of being president, in which he’d conduct a visit to one of our ICBM silos, stand next to the missile and caress it with his hand. Everything about Trump makes me think of Dr. Strangelove (the character in the movie), whose love relationship with Armageddon is much too personal. And by the way, Russia has not disavowed the existence of a real “dead hand” system.
They say life imitates art, but Trump’s affection for world-ending art is a bit too much, and a bit too real, for America to accept.