by Bob Cesca
Just about a year ago today, CNN held one of many televised debates among the clown car of hopefuls for the Republican nomination. Conservative radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt, asked Donald Trump about our "nuclear triad," which is, cutting to the chase, the term defining the three systems the U.S. military uses to deploy and launch nuclear warheads: submarines, silos and bombers.
Trump had no idea what Hewitt was talking about.
After struggling to get a straight answer out of Trump about nukes, Hewitt reiterated, "Of the three legs of the Triad, do you have a priority?"
Trump replied, "To me I think nuclear -- the power, the devastation is very important to me."
That was his actual answer. "To me I think nuclear -- the power, the devastation is very important to me." He obviously had no idea what Hewitt was talking about and, not unlike a high school kid bullshitting his way through a teacher's question, he delivered this nonsensical answer about the power and the devastation -- that "nuclear" is the most important aspect of the, you know, nuclear triad. I suppose "nuclear" is a vital part of the triad because, without it, it's not a nuclear triad. However, no. "Nuclear" isn't an aspect of the triad, specifically. Trump might as well have blurted another of his "bing bing bong bong" runs, his response was almost as incoherent.
In the past, this would've absolutely disqualified him from becoming president. But it became lost in the avalanche of gibberish and awfulness that orbits everything Trump says and does. Indeed, no one really talked about his horrendous triad answer 48 hours later. It was a minor glitch and it shouldn't have been. Welcome to Trump's rules, where none of the old rules of politics apply.
Maybe those rules should've applied. Here especially.
On December 22, 2016, three days before Christmas, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted this:
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
For the first time in decades, we have an incoming commander-in-chief who wants to scrap all non-proliferation treaties and resume the manufacturing and deployment of more warheads, effectively modernizing the triad. It was just six years ago when President Obama signed the New START treaty with President Medvedev of Russia, which placed cut the number of launchers by 50 percent and placed caps on the deployment of bombers, warheads and ICBMs. We can assume that Trump and his co-president, Mr. Putin, will scrap the treaty in lieu of reconstituting an arms race similar to the Cold War. You know, when we were held under the threat of global annihilation almost constantly.
The point, Trump wrote, was to make sure "the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." I have no idea what this means other than, perhaps, Trump plans to scare the jeebus out of everyone until all nukes are dismantled... by the world?
In addition to destabilizing the delicate balance of global nuclear proliferation, Trump decided that the best format for discussing nuclear warheads was... Twitter. Yes, Twitter. Where nuance goes to die. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn't something as complicated and potentially incendiary as nuclear bombs be debated in a format that doesn't have a 140 character limit? I used to think so, but not any more. In Trump's America, it's now acceptable to blurt a non-sequitur -- in less than 140 keystrokes. no less -- about augmenting our ability to end the world as we know it.
Allow me to repeat a phrase I'll be mentioned repeatedly throughout the next four years: This is not normal. This is not normal. This is not normal.
It's worth noting that the U.S. has more nuclear weapons than we can possibly ever use. We have more nuclear weapons than would ever be required in a confrontation with "axis of evil" states like North Korea or Iran. We have more nukes than we'd ever need against China, for that matter. The only nation with more nukes than ours is Putin's Russia, and it's only a difference of a few dozen. So, what the hell's the point?
Sure, on the same day Trump tweeted his nukes policy (we're so screwed), Putin announced that he, too, plans to boost his stockpile, remarking in a speech, "We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces."
Is it just me or is anyone else creeped out by how similar Putin's and Trump's remarks sound? Regardless, I thought Trump and Putin were allies. Isn't the idea of strengthening a nuclear arsenal to intimidate a closely competing member of the nukes club? Who else do these two talking nards plan to compete against? America and Russia each have around 1,700 weapons currently deployed. The next biggest stockpile is owned by France. 300 total weapons. 280 deployed warheads. It's possible Trump and Putin intend to ramp up production by citing the other as a mutual threat. Or is this about ISIS, and, if so, aren't we emboldening the terrorists by suggesting we need even more nukes in order to fight them? It unnecessarily gives the Islamic State more power -- another reason out of millions why Trump has no business occupying his current gig.
None of this makes any sense, thus contributing to the sense of harrowing destabilization and uncertainty that accompanies Trump's monkey-with-a-machine-gun leadership style. He hasn't even been inaugurated yet and he's already making us feel like we're leaning too far back in their chairs -- on the verge of almost falling over backward. Or, in the case, being pushed.
2017 is going to be perhaps the most pivotal year in American history since 1861 or 1941. Only this time, the instability will be manifested not by an unstoppable, unreasonable outside force or by a good president stumbling into a rat's next. This time, it'll be the rank incompetence of a chief executive who ascended to power due in part to the meddling of a hostile foreign government that he doesn't see as being hostile.
Sleep tight and try to have a Merry Christmas. The fight begins for real in less than a month.