President Donald Trump said Thursday at an impromptu White House press conference that he had been briefed: “Nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
His words (a transcript of which can be found at CNBC), most likely meant as reassurance that he believes nuclear war should be entered into only as a last resort, was anything but reassuring, said as it was in the midst of an unending fusillade against the unfairness of the media toward his administration, the animosity with which it was reported, the poor quality of the reporting, and how there was so much “fake news” being pedaled to the people, whom, the president insisted, “don’t believe you people anymore…”
It was also in a meandering lecture on “fake news” regarding reports of his presidential campaign aides speaking with Russians (where the president denied doing anything for the Russians) that Trump mentioned the Russian spy ship spotted in international waters off the Connecticut coast Wednesday, saying, “I know politically it’s probably not good for me. Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it’s so great. That’s not great. That’s not great.”
It’s not great. And President Trump’s thinking that “everyone in this country” would say it was “great” to shoot a ship “right out of the water” is a gross exaggeration of the way Americans think about using force that could start a nuclear war, especially against a ship that has broken no maritime laws, illegally entered American territorial waters, or acted in a hostile manner in any way toward the U.S.
Trump concluded that “I would love to be able to get along with Russia,” stating that other presidents had not thought as he does.
There was then a try for clarification by a reporter, where it was mentioned that other provocative actions by the Russians had occurred. The provocations were reports of the aforementioned Russian spy ship off the eastern seaboard of the United States, the buzzing of a U.S. warship in the Baltic by Russian warplanes that had their transponders turned off, and reports of Russia’s deployment of an illegal ground-launched cruise missile (an alleged breach of an arms treaty with the U.S.).
When asked if he thought that Russian president Vladimir Putin might be testing him, Trump said he didn’t think so. But then he said it would be “easier for him to be tough,” digressing into the topic of nuclear weapons.
“There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I’ve been briefed. I can tell you one thing about a briefing, that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia — believe me — that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Was this President Trump’s way of assuring Americans and the Russians (the world?) that he wasn’t eager to engage in a nuclear war with the Russian Federation? If so, it could go a long way in assuaging fears that he will use nuclear weapons during his presidency, a belief shared by 46 percent of Americans, according to a poll conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Lincoln Leadership Initiative in September (per The Hill). This belief, of course, was supported by Trump’s own words.
In an interview on NBC’s Today show in April last year, he said using nuclear weapons were on the table. “I don’t want to rule out anything,” he said. “I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons.” But he later added, “I will not be a happy trigger like some people might be, but I will never, ever rule it out.”
President Trump was then asked what his response to the Russians was going to be.
Trump replied by doing a strange sarcastic role-play monologue about telling the press his plans for attacking Mosul (Iraq). To be clear, the president was scoffing at the idea of revealing his plans for dealing with Russia.
So the reporter asked again if there would be a response from the U.S., to which Trump became combative, forcefully insisting he wasn’t going to, didn’t have to divulge what was going to be done. Then the reporter began repeatedly asking if, then just stating that there would be no response from the U.S. in between Trump outbursts.
At one point President Trump said, “I don’t talk military.”
By many accounts, he doesn’t talk much of anything. He just appears to be a rambling free-association Gatling gun, firing off bullets of misdirection, topic avoidance, and both focused and generalized attacks.
Some things defy true explanation, such as most of President Trump’s 77-minute impromptu train wreck of a press conference on Thursday. Description, yes. Explanation? No. But at least in all the verbal sparring, attacks on the media, and non-answers, we can all now be reassured with this takeaway: President Donald Trump now, after a briefing, actually understands the horrors of nuclear war. And that’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing.
And it would be a bit more believable that he actually believes it as well if we could only get him and his administration to understand the importance of protecting the nuclear football (with its nuclear codes) and other classified information. As The Guardian reported, a security crisis erupted recently concerning a North Korean missile launch during a dinner party at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago winter getaway and the situation was handled while the guests remained in the room. Documents were read by the light of cell phones and the man with the nuclear football took a selfie with one of the dinner guests.
But it is such reassuring news that the man CNN’s Jake Tapper described as “unhinged” during Thursday’s press conference, has had a briefing on nuclear weapons. Yes, at least Trump has been briefed…
[Featured Image by Romanova Natali/Shutterstock]