James Clapper, Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence for seven years, finds Donald Trump’s shouty maniac routine just as unsettling as you do, and after Trump’s yelling fit in Phoenix Tuesday, Clapper said he’s really not comfortable with Trump having the ability to launch nuclear weapons any time he wants to.
“Having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, the access to the nuclear codes,” Clapper told CNN, pointing to the current stand-off with North Korea.
If “in a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there’s actually very little to stop him. The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”
The Guardian reminds us that in 1969, a drunk Richard Nixon reportedly wanted to launch a nuclear attack against North Korea after they shot down a U.S. spy plane, according to former CIA official George Carver, as quoted in a Nixon biography:
Nixon became incensed and ordered a tactical nuclear strike… The Joint Chiefs were alerted and asked to recommend targets, but Kissinger got on the phone to them. They agreed not to do anything until Nixon sobered up in the morning.
Donald Trump is at least a teetotaler (HE SAYS). But he’s also far ragier than Nixon, so that’s of little comfort. We can at least hope the alleged adults in Trump’s circle, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis, have had a word with the Joint Chiefs about what to do if Trump goes more than his normal amount of insane.
Clapper had a good bit more to say on the matter, too:
“I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing,” he said. “Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.”
We also find it scary and disturbing that we’re not more terrified of what Trump might do in the middle of a good fiery rage. Shouldn’t we be digging a hole in the backyard or something?
Clapper, having had a night to toss and turn while thinking about Trump staring longingly at “the biscuit” that gives him access to the nuclear “football,” continued his worries in a conversation with CNN’s Don Lemon this morning:
I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office […] I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.
We would like to remind the president that resignation might be a tad embarrassing, but he could very easily blame Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for it anyway, and then get back to his important life’s work of driving businesses into bankruptcy. It’s better than taking the rest of the country with him.
The Guardian notes that once a president has used the appropriate codes to verify his identity, the nuclear command structure, designed to allow a quick response to an incoming nuclear attack from an enemy, offers the military no formal powers to refuse a nuclear launch order. The people who designed the system assumed it would never be run by a guy with no emotional fail-safes.
California Democratic congressman Ted Lieu, who along with Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts is co-sponsoring a bill that would require Congress to declare war before a president could launch a nuclear first strike, Tweeted in response to Clapper’s comments that maybe this would be a good time to have a good talk about nuclear command and control:
President Trump has moved on to Nevada today, where aides reportedly had to restrain him after he demanded to be taken to a nuclear test site “to see if the radiation gives me super powers.”
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