A key component of a presidential election year is speculating on how the candidates will handle the responsibility of the nuclear football, which often accompanies the president. (It contains options, sites, and launch codes for a nuclear attack.) One, of course, shudders at the prospect of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio anywhere close to the process of decision-making about nuclear war. And what about Hillary Clinton?
You can slot her just to the right of President Obama, who was given a Nobel Prize induce him into acting on the anti-nuclear weapon sentiment that he expressed in his famous 2009 Prague speech. And what is his record? In his latest bulletin, Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello explains:
Over two terms, Obama has retired fewer warheads than any other post-Cold War president, in both absolute and relative terms.
… Obama has launched a comprehensive effort to modernize everything in sight – everything nuclear-weapons related, that is. Warheads, factories, and delivery systems, with no significant weapon retirements going forward, are to be operated, maintained and upgraded in capability at a total cost of at least $1 trillion over 30 years.
… As a result of these aggressive plans … inflation-corrected warhead spending has risen higher under Obama than under any prior president.
Bernie Sanders, of course, opposes Obama’s plans, though one has the feeling that’s just as much because the money could be better spent domestically (free college tuition, for instance) than because he fears the end of the world.
And then, of course, there is Donald Trump. In an article in Slate, Ron Rosenbaum writes
At the heart of the near hysterical (and mostly justified) Fear of Trump that escalates as he approaches the Republican nomination is the Fear of Trump With the Trigger. That explosive temperament combined with that explosive capability.
But, in 1989, in the aftermath of the vastly underachieving 1986 Reykjavík Summit, which he saw as a deal gone bad, that Donald Trump became preoccupied ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Within the context of the above article, Slate reproduced Rosenbaum’s interview, at the time, with Trump, who said:
“The fact is, it’s already very late. It’s one of the great problems of the world. Not one of them. It is the.”
To my surprise, he represented exactly how I feel. If you don’t deal with existential questions like nuclear war and global warming you don’t have to deal with other issues, because they, along with much of the rest of the world, won’t exist anymore.
Rosenbaum wrote that Trump spoke of “the bureaucratic sabotage that has destroyed the possibility of a deal on arms control between the superpowers. And why our negotiators wouldn’t know how to make a deal if they found one staring them in the face.” Trump again:
“There is a vast, vast amount of difference between somebody who has consistently made great deals…. [and] somebody who’s been working for a relatively small amount of money in governmental service for many years. … The private sector has passed them by and all of a sudden these people are negotiating the lives of you and your children, your families, and I tell you there’s a tremendous amount of difference.”
Of course, there is no telling if he still feels the same way. But, it’s ironic to think that he may be the only candidate of either party who has strong feelings about nuclear weapons.