Here, in a nutshell, are the laws and procedures that limit
There aren't any.
If the president wakes up one morning, turns on Fox News and decides that
He isn’t required to consult his secretary of Defense and other advisors, although that would be a good idea. He isn’t required to ask
All he has to do is call in the military officer who carries the "football," the bulky briefcase containing the nuclear codes, and work through a brief procedure to transmit launch orders to U.S. Strategic Command.
"There are really no checks and balances," said Bruce G. Blair, a former nuclear launch control officer who is now a researcher at Princeton University. "The presidency has become a nuclear monarchy."
The streamlined procedure was designed during the Cold War for speed and certainty, in case Washington was in imminent danger of destruction by a Soviet attack. It relies, to an astonishing extent, on the judgment and steadiness of just one person. It wasn't designed for a case like North Korea: a small nuclear power with the power to threaten but not destroy the United States. Nor, of course, was it designed for a president like Trump, whose temperament tends toward impulsiveness.
And that’s why the
The chairman of the panel, Republican Sen.
But since Corker has frequently complained that Trump lacks the competence and stability to be president, and once described the White House as "an adult day-care center," nobody was fooled.
“Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment,” said Sen.
Needless to say, the senators didn't arrive at any kind of consensus.
Murphy and other
A former commander of U.S. nuclear forces, retired Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, told the committee that military officers could prevent a disaster by objecting to an order they considered illegal. But he acknowledged that objecting wouldn't stop the order from being carried out. Instead, he said dryly, it would lead to "a very difficult conversation."
Blair, the nuclear scholar, has suggested requiring more than one signature on a nuclear war order — ideally, the secretary of Defense and the attorney general as well as the president. Every other step in launching nuclear weapons, he noted, holds to a "two-man rule," requiring two people to concur; only the decision to begin a nuclear war is given to just one person.
Some Democrats, including Sen.
That's not a crazy idea. It wouldn't bind a president's hands in a genuine emergency. It's been endorsed by former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, a nuclear technologist who was willing, during the Clinton administration, to go to war against North Korea. (Diplomacy made that war unnecessary, he says.)
Apparently, however, that constitutional remedy is a bridge too far for most. Markey has collected only 13 cosponsors for his bill, all Democrats — just one-third of his party's members in the Senate.
That leaves the senators united in a single sentiment: wishing they had a less volatile president to worry about. Just like most of the rest of us.