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A scary reality, Trump still has the nuclear codes

Former Reagan aide: Trump still has the nuclear codes. And that’s genuinely  scary.    By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist  By Mark Weinberg,  24 Dec 20 

Almost anything Donald Trump does in his last weeks as president can be undone by Joe Biden. Executive Orders can be reversed, regulations can be changed, unnecessary commissions can be disbanded, and (some) political appointees can be removed from their positions. Unfortunately, a few will remain after Trump leaves because of how terms are structured, but their ability and probably their willingness to cause mischief will be severely limited when their man is out of the White House. At least one hopes so.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that until noon on January 20th Trump will have access to the codes necessary to authorize a nuclear war. That is genuinely scary.

The size, scale and influence of the United States’ economy notwithstanding, what makes the president of the United States the most powerful person in the world is control of our nuclear weapons.

Our two most threatening adversaries, Russia and China, both have significant nuclear arsenals. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are aware that Trump is a wounded and weakened president and will be so until he leaves office next month. Whether they sense that translates into an opening for them to outright attack us — or at least threaten to — is an open question. No doubt they are watching closely for opportunities to enhance their world domination campaigns at our expense, which means we must be super-vigilant.  Nuclear war is no joke. It is as serious as it gets. What animated Ronald Reagan most in his efforts to engage the Soviet Union to reduce both country’s nuclear stockpiles was that each nation had the ability to destroy each other. Reagan called this the “MAD” – Mutually Assured Destruction – policy, which he rightly thought was unacceptably dangerous and worked hard to eliminate. He famously said: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Contrary to opponents’ depictions, Reagan was not a trigger-happy warmonger. Indeed, he was the opposite. A World War II veteran, he knew well of, and worried about, the indescribably deadly potential of nuclear weapons and took very seriously his duties as president in either responding to — or initiating — a nuclear strike.

As with all modern-day presidents, elaborate steps were taken to make certain Reagan always had access to the nuclear codes wherever he was. There was never a time during Reagan’s presidency when his stability or suitability to have the nuclear codes was in question.

Such is not the case with Trump. Indeed, his descent into self-serving delusion, bitter rage at anyone who dares speak the truth, and complete rejection of the long-established norms that have kept our democracy intact, make one wonder whether he is mentally stable and capable of exercising sound judgment should he be faced with “the ultimate” decision. My answer would be no.

So what to do until he is replaced by a more stable, sensible, and sane president?

Tempting and legitimate as it may be, invoking the 25th Amendment to declare Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” is not a realistic possibility at this point. For reasons they will have to explain later, most members of Trump’s Cabinet, including Vice President Michael Pence, are either unable or unwilling to recognize Trump’s instability and unsuitability for office and fear that doing anything to upset him could be professional suicide.

Perhaps a solution can be found in the presidency of Trump’s hero, Richard Nixon. It has been widely reported that in the last few days Nixon was in office, then-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, concerned that a distraught Nixon might do something rash, issued a directive to the military that if Nixon ordered a nuclear strike, they were to check with him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing.
Hopefully, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller has the wisdom to issue such an order. He needs to. Whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has the courage and patriotism to act as a backstop against any reckless Trump order is a question which, with any luck, will never require an answer.

December 24, 2020 - Posted by | politics, psychology - mental health, USA, weapons and war

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