Republican Donald Trump, the second-most likely person to take over as president in 2017, wants you to know he never asked why the United States can’t just use nuclear weapons and be done with our enemies already. Call me cynical, but I don’t believe him.
Not because incinerating entire cities with a single bomb strikes me as an ingenious strategy that must stay under wraps because it suffers from bad PR (like NAFTA or the TPP). I don’t believe Trump because the outlandish statements he’s made into microphones and TV cameras for everyone to hear make it entirely plausible that he would wonder in private about making greater use of America’s terrifying nuclear arsenal.
Here’s an experiment: Put Trump’s alleged nuclear bellicosity alongside his more well-known offenses. Shut down Muslim immigration to the U.S. Kill the families of terrorists. Vladimir Putin’s a great leader. Daughter Ivanka should quit her job if she’s sexually harassed. More countries should have nuclear weapons. And we should use ours.
It’s beyond dispute that Trump uttered five of those statements (records of them exist, just like President Obama’s birth certificate), and now he denies making the sixth. This is a man who thought it would be no big deal to riff on Russian hackers destroying the political career of his Democratic opponent.
Leave aside for the moment that Trump’s candidacy provides a frightening reminder why no country can be trusted with nuclear weapons. On a broader level, a president’s public statements matter – they might come across as insincere and too politically massaged, but they provide valuable clues to the thinking of the world’s most indispensable person.
And Donald Trump, who allegedly thinks we haven’t used our nuclear weapons enough, must not become that person.
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