How Trump and Clinton Gave Bad Answers on US Nuclear Policy….And Why You Should Be Worried

By Andrew Bacevich, a , is the author, most recently, of , which has been for the National Book Award. Originally published at

You may have missed it. Perhaps you dozed off. Or wandered into the kitchen to grab a snack. Or by that point in the proceedings were checking out Seinfeld reruns. During the latter part of the much hyped but excruciating-to-watch first presidential debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt posed a seemingly straightforward but cunningly devised question. His purpose was to test whether the candidates understood the essentials of nuclear strategy.

A moderator given to plain speaking might have said this: “Explain why the United States keeps such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and when you might consider using those weapons.”

What Holt actually said was: “On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation’s longstanding policy on first use.  Do you support the current policy?”

The framing of the question posited no small amount of knowledge on the part of the two candidates. Specifically, it assumed that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each possess some familiarity with the longstanding policy to which Holt referred and with the modifications that Obama had contemplated making to it.

If you will permit the equivalent of a commercial break as this piece begins, let me explain why I’m about to parse in detail each candidate’s actual answer to Holt’s question. Amid deep dives into, and expansive punditry regarding, issues like a former Miss Universe may have been and an imagined future wall on our southern border might prove to be, national security issues likely to test the judgment of a commander-in-chief have received remarkably little attention.  So indulge me.  This largely ignored moment in last week’s presidential debate is worth examining.

With regard to the issue of “first use,” every president since Harry Truman has subscribed to the same posture: the United States retains the prerogative of employing nuclear weapons to defend itself and its allies against even nonnuclear threats.  In other words, as a matter of policy, the United States rejects the concept of “no first use,” which would prohibit any employment of nuclear weapons except in retaliation for a nuclear attack.  According to press reports, President Obama had but then rejected the idea of committing the United States to a “no first use” posture.  Holt wanted to know where the two candidates aspiring to succeed Obama stood on the matter.

Cruelly, the moderator invited Trump to respond first.  The look in the Republican nominee’s eyes made it instantly clear that Holt could have been speaking Farsi for all he understood.  A lesser candidate might then have begun with the nuclear equivalent of “”

Yet Trump being Trump, he gamely — or naively — charged headlong into the ambush that Holt had carefully laid, using his allotted two minutes to offer his insights into how as president he would address the nuclear conundrum that previous presidents had done so much to create.  The result owed less to early Cold War thinkers-of-the-unthinkable like Herman Kahn or Albert Wohlstetter, who created the field of nuclear strategy, than to Dr. Strangelove.  Make that Dr. Strangelove on meth.

Trump turned first to Russia, expressing concern that it might be gaining an edge in doomsday weaponry. “They have a much newer capability than we do,” he said.  “We have not been updating from the new standpoint.”  The American bomber fleet in particular, he added, needs modernization.  Presumably referring to the recent employment of Vietnam-era bombers in the wars in , , and Syria, he continued somewhat opaquely, “I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather, could be flying them. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries.”

Trump then professed an appreciation for the awfulness of nuclear weaponry.  “I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it.  But I would certainly not do first strike.  I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.”

Give Trump this much: even in a field that tends to favor abstraction and obfuscating euphemisms like “fallout” or “dirty bomb,” classifying Armageddon as the “nuclear alternative” represents something of a contribution.

Still, it’s worth noting that, in the arcane theology of nuclear strategy, “first strike” and “first use” are anything but synonymous.  “First strike” implies a one-sided, preventive war of annihilation.  The logic of a first strike, such as it is, is based on the calculation that a surprise nuclear attack could inflict the “nuclear alternative” on your adversary, while sparing your own side from suffering a comparable fate.  A successful first strike would be a one-punch knockout, delivered while your opponent still sits in his corner of the ring.

Yet whatever reassurance was to be found in Trump’s vow never to order a first strike — not the question Lester Holt was asking — was immediately squandered.  The Republican nominee promptly revoked his “no first strike” pledge by insisting, in a cliché in , that “I can’t take anything off the table.”

Piling non sequitur upon non sequitur, he next turned to the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, where “we’re doing nothing.”  Yet, worrisome as this threat might be, keeping Pyongyang in check, he added, ought to be Beijing’s job.  “China should solve that problem for us,” he insisted.  “China should go into North Korea.  China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.”

If China wouldn’t help with North Korea, however, what could be more obvious than that Iran, many thousands of miles away, should do so — and might have, if only President Obama had incorporated the necessary proviso into the Iran nuclear deal.  “Iran is one of their biggest trading partners.  Iran has power over North Korea.”  When the Obama administration “made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea.”  But why stop with North Korea?  Iran “should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places,” he continued, wandering into the nonnuclear world.  U.S. negotiators suitably skilled in the Trumpian art of the deal, he implied, could easily have maneuvered Iran into solving such problems on Washington’s behalf.

Veering further off course, Trump then took a passing swipe at Secretary of State John Kerry:  “Why didn’t you add other things into the deal?”  Why, in “one of the great giveaways of all time,” did the Obama administration fork over in cash?  At which point, he promptly threw in another figure without the slightest explanation — “It was actually in cash” — in “one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history.”

Trump then wrapped up his meandering tour d’horizon by decrying the one action of the Obama administration that arguably has reduced the prospect of nuclear war, at least in the near future.  “The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems,” he stated with conviction.  “All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.  And they’re going to end up getting nuclear.”  For proof, he concluded, talk to the Israelis.  “I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day,” he added for no reason in particular.  “Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.”

On this indecipherable note, his allotted time exhausted, Trump’s recitation ended.  In its way, it had been a Joycean performance.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters?

It was now Clinton’s turn to show her stuff.  If Trump had responded to Holt like a voluble golf caddy being asked to discuss the finer points of ice hockey, Hillary Clinton chose a different course: she changed the subject. She would moderate her own debate.  Perhaps Trump thought Holt was in charge of the proceedings; Clinton knew better.

What followed was vintage Clinton: vapid sentiments, smoothly delivered in the knowing tone of a seasoned Washington operative.  During her two minutes, she never came within a country mile of discussing the question Holt had asked or the thoughts she about nuclear issues.

“[L]et me start by saying, words matter,” she began.  “Words matter when you run for president.  And they really matter when you are president.  And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.”

It was as if Clinton were already speaking from the Oval Office.  Trump had addressed his remarks to Lester Holt.  Clinton directed hers to the nation at large, to people the world over, indeed to history itself.  Warming to her task, she was soon rolling out the sort of profundities that play well at the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment, or the Council on Foreign Relations, causing audiences to nod — or nod off.

“It is essential that America’s word be good,” Clinton continued.  “And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”

Then, after inserting a tepid, better-than-nothing endorsement of the Iran nuclear deal, she hammered Trump for not offering an alternative.  “Would he have started a war?  Would he have bombed Iran?”  If you’re going to criticize, she pointed out, you need to offer something better.  Trump never does, she charged.  “It’s like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.”

With that, she reverted to platitudes. “So we need to be more precise in how we talk about these issues. People around the word follow our presidential campaigns so closely, trying to get hints about what we will do. Can they rely on us? Are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values? That’s what I intend to do. I intend to be a leader of our country that people can count on, both here at home and around the world, to make decisions that will further peace and prosperity, but also stand up to bullies, whether they’re abroad or at home.” 

Like Trump, she offered no specifics.  Which bullies?  Where?  How?  In what order?  Would she start with Russia’s Putin?  North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un?  Perhaps Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines?  How about Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan?  Or Bibi?

In contrast to Trump, however, Clinton did speak in complete sentences, which followed one another in an orderly fashion.  She thereby came across as at least nominally qualified to govern the country, much like, say, Warren G. Harding nearly a century ago.  And what worked for Harding in 1920 may well work for Clinton in 2016.

Of Harding’s speechifying, H.L. Mencken wrote at the time, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges.”  Mencken characterized Harding’s rhetoric as “so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.  It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh.  It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle.  It is balder and dash.”  So, too, with Hillary Clinton.  She is our Warren G. Harding.  In her oratory, flapdoodle and balderdash live on.

The National Security Void

If I’ve taxed your patience by recounting this non-debate and non-discussion of nuclear first use, it’s to make a larger point.  The absence of relevant information elicited by Lester Holt’s excellent question speaks directly to what has become a central flaw in this entire presidential campaign: the dearth of attention given to matters basic to U.S. national security policy.

In the nuclear arena, the issue of first use is only one of several on which anyone aspiring to become the next commander-in-chief should be able to offer an informed judgment.  Others include questions such as these:

  • What is the present-day justification for maintaining the U.S. nuclear “triad,” a strike force consisting of manned bombers and land-based ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles?
  • Why is the Pentagon embarking upon a decades-long, to modernize that triad, fielding a new generation of bombers, missiles, and submarines along with an arsenal of ?  Is that program necessary?
  • How do advances in non-nuclear weaponry — for example, in the realm of cyberwarfare — affect theories of nuclear deterrence devised by the likes of Kahn and Wohlstetter during the 1950s and 1960s?  Does the logic of those theories still pertain?

Beyond the realm of nuclear strategy, there are any number of other security-related questions about which the American people deserve to hear directly from both Trump and Clinton, testing their knowledge of the subject matter and the quality of their judgments.  Among such matters, one in particular screams out for attention.  Consider it the question that Washington has declared off-limits: What lessons should be drawn from America’s costly and disappointing post-9/11 wars and how should those lessons apply to future policy?

With Election Day now merely a month away, there is no more reason to believe that such questions will receive serious consideration than to expect Trump to come clean on his or Clinton to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches.

When outcomes don’t accord with his wishes, Trump reflexively a “rigged” system.  But a system that makes someone like Trump a finalist for the presidency isn’t rigged.  It is manifestly absurd, a fact that has left most of the national media grasping wildly for explanations (albeit none that tag them with having facilitated the transformation of politics into theater).

I’ll take a backseat to no one in finding Trump unfit to serve as president.  Yet beyond the outsized presence of one particular personality, the real travesty of our predicament lies elsewhere — in the utter shallowness of our political discourse, no more vividly on display than in the realm of national security.

What do our presidential candidates talk about when they don’t want to talk about nuclear war?  The one, in a vain effort to conceal his own ignorance, offers rambling nonsense.  The other, accustomed to making her own rules, simply changes the subject.

The American people thereby remain in darkness.  On that score, Trump, Clinton, and the parties they represent are not adversaries.  They are collaborators.

Andrew Bacevich, a , is the author, most recently, of , which has been for the National Book Award.

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27 comments

  1. ambrit

    Prof. Bacevitch has bought up the one overriding problem with this election cycle: Lack of substance.
    I usually remark that one must look at the ‘second tier’ of a political cabal to predict future actions by a ‘candidate.’ The people surrounding the ‘candidate’ and their track records on issues in their sphere of expertise tell the mind sets that ‘drive’ policy. Trump comes from the business world, where delegation of responsibility is standard for larger enterprises. His ‘advisors’ are key to future performance. Clinton seems to be encapsulated in a bubble of sycophants. So, the same rationale applies to her as applies to Trump. Who are her main ‘advisors?’
    As anyone possessed of discernment would have noticed in the 2008 campaign, Obama surrounded himself with ‘less than progressive’ advisors. His subsequent governance followed suit so that we find the nation in the mess it is in today.
    Finally, all signs are that the Russians are not taking this slide towards bellicosity lightly. The Russians are demonstrating a clear sighted view of Americas dysfunctions. For the Russians to hold massive Civil Defense drills now is a clear message; “We are preparing for the worst. How about you?”
    As always, Prof. Bacevitch is a joy to read. Live long, prosper, and hope those in positions of power take his message to heart.

    1. hemeantwell

      The tone of this piece is remarkably similar to a long article Bacevich headed in a recent Harper’s article on US foreign policy. Presented as a roundtable discussion, it centered on the dogged insistence of some State Department-tied clown that Russia is The Aggressor, while Bacevich and a two other participants nicked away at her position, largely, as I recall, by granting the Russians some right to a regional interest. While they slowed her down, the great missing element was a characterization of global aims of the US her position reflected.

      That’s pretty much what’s going on here. “Do we really need a trillion dollar upgrade to US nuclear capability?” Good question. But why, oh why, Andrew is it being proposed in the first place? (Actually O has been pursuing the preliminaries for some time.) There’s nothing about ing a military-industrial complex, nothing about trying to further distort the Russian economy to promote instability, nothing about trying to capitalize on the US’ military superiority as its economic hegemony slips away. In short, Bacevich, a good liberal, will not name the beast of US imperialism. As a result he makes it seem as though any policy can be judged on a truncated logic of its own, and so policy debates fragment into a disconnected series of arguments that bid for “fresh thinking” without daring to consider the underlying drivers. It’s one of the reasons Eisenhower, with his criticism of the military-industrial complex, still comes across as a guiding light.

      1. DJG

        The round-table in Harper’s, for background. One of the “takeaways” that I had is that both of the women who participated are gratuitously hawkish. I am now tending to favor a universal draft. I’ll put it out there: We have too many upper-middle-class white women who claim to understand foreign policy who should have been subject to a draft to concentrate their minds on what happens when a person is forced into the military and sent off to drive around with a rifle as people lob bombs at them. Madeleine Albright is the classic case: “What good is our exquisite military, if I, a compassion-challenged expert, can’t waste a lot of lives on my follies?” Bacevich’s personal history means that he knows what war is about (as did Gen. Sherman).

        1. hemeantwell

          Knowing what war’s all about doesn’t help much with knowing why wars come about, I’m afraid. Bacevich is not helpful here. This reminds me of a great article by Graham Allison on bureaucratic drivers in the Cuban Missile crisis, set out as three competing/complementary theories. Within its mypoic scope, excellent, but as far as helping with the Cold War context, nada. He went on to scotomize away in a chair at Harvard, gazing out his very fixed Overton window of permissible strategic critique.

          Wow. I just went to the TomDispatch site to look at Bacevich’s work there. He does have a piece criticizing Trump and HRC in light of Eisenhower, but slaps Eisenhower, appropriately, for various crap, including the military-industrial complex takeoff. Why is it missing from this article? At least Eisenhower criticized it.

        2. clarky90

          With the confluence of computers, robotics, telecommunications, and age-extension drugs/ technologies, is it not logical to institute a universal draft that excludes the young and uneducated?

          Well educated men and women, say older than 40 years old, would make fantastic soldiers- way better than the unsophisticated children who are taking on the responsibilities for our defense today. They would be mature, ethical and level headed!

          I predict that there would be a flowering of peaceful thinking, words and actions. It would keep many of them out of mischief (idle hands) – you know, occupying their free-time productively, as born again peace advocates.

    2. Science Officer Smirnoff

      Surprised that Bacevitch omits the thrust of Jerry Brown’s important review:

      My Journey at the Nuclear Brink
      by William J. Perry, with a foreword by George P. Shultz
      Stanford Security Studies, 234 pp., $85.00; $24.95 (paper)

      I know of no person who understands the science and politics of modern weaponry better than William J. Perry, the US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997. When a man of such unquestioned experience and intelligence issues the stark nuclear warning that is central to his recent memoir, we should take heed. Perry is forthright when he says: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.” He also tells us that the nuclear danger is “growing greater every year” and that even a single nuclear detonation “could destroy our way of life.”

      [emphasis added]

      1. Science Officer Smirnoff

        Further down a nugget from the review:

        Perry does not use his memoir to score points or settle grudges. He does not sensationalize. But, as a defense insider and keeper of nuclear secrets, he is clearly calling American leaders to account for what he believes are very bad decisions, such as the precipitous expansion of NATO, right up to the Russian border,* and President George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, originally signed by President Nixon.

        *“The descent down the slippery slope began, I believe, with the premature NATO expansion, and I soon came to believe that the downsides of early NATO membership for Eastern European nations were even worse than I had feared” (p. 152). ↩

        [emphasis added]

        1. hemeantwell

          Good catch, thanks. It’s good to see establishment figures trying to build up a headwind against this stupidity/insanity.

        2. NY Union Guy

          Interesting comments by Mr. Perry who had a starring role in 1979’s “First Strike” propaganda film where he advocated for the MX ICBM system.

    1. James Kroeger

      So what’s a voter to do?

      Well, I would hope that informed voters who have a healthy fear of the military-industrial-political complex will vote to keep the scariest of the two re: nuclear war out of office. This particular concern is the reason why I will in all likelihood be voting for the man I’ve been ridiculing for most of the past year, simply because I am terrified of the prospect of Hillary Clinton as Commander-in-Chief.

      Trump is a bad choice for a long list of reasons, but the most outrageous things he has proposed require legislation and I think it will be possible to defeat his essential sociopathy on that level, since he will face not only the opposition of the Dem Party, but also MSM and a significant number of people from his own party.

      But when it comes to the President’s ability to put American ‘boots on the ground’ vs. some theoretical enemy, no such approval from Congress is necessary. Hillary Clinton will be in a position to get us into a costly war without having to overcome any domestic opposition to pull it off.

      What scares me is my knowledge of her career-long investment in trying to convince the generals and the admirals that she is a ‘tough bitch’, ala Margaret Thatcher, who will not hesitate to pull the trigger. An illuminating revealed that she always advocates the most muscular and reckless dispositions of U.S. military forces whenever her opinion is solicited.

      All of her experience re: foreign policy that she’s been touting is actually the scariest thing about her, when you look at what her historical dispositions have been. The “No Fly Zone” she’s been pushing since last year is just the latest example of her instinct to act recklessly, as it directly invites a military confrontation with Russia.

      Her willingness to roll the dice, to gamble with other people’s lives, is ingrained within her political personality, of which she is so proud.

      Her greatest political fear—that she might one day be accused by Republicans of being “weak on America’s enemies”—is what we have to fear. That fear is what drives her to the most extreme of war hawk positions, since her foundational strategy is to get out in front of the criticism she anticipates.

      It is what we can count on. She will most assuredly get America into a war within the first 6-9 months of her Presidency, since she will be looking forward to the muscular response she will order when she is ‘tested’, as she expects.

      How reckless is Trump likely to be? Well, like Clinton—and all other civilian Commanders-in-Chief, Trump be utterly dependent upon the advice of military professionals in deciding what kind of responses to order. But in the position of The Decider, there is one significant difference between Trump and Clinton.

      Trump is at least willing and able to 1) view Putin as someone who is not a threat to the United States and 2) is able/willing to question the rationality of America’s continued participation in NATO.

      These differences alone are enough to move me to actually vote for someone I find politically detestable, simply because I fear that the alternative is a high probability of war, and a greatly enhanced risk of nuclear annihilation—through miscalculation—under a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

      Quite simply, she scares the hell out of me.

      1. likbez

        James,

        Excellent, really excellent summary. Thank you. Especially this observation:
        “Her greatest political fear—that she might one day be accused by Republicans of being “weak on America’s enemies”—is what we have to fear. That fear is what drives her to the most extreme of war hawk positions, since her foundational strategy is to get out in front of the criticism she anticipates.”

        I would like to add a few minor points:

        1. Clinton might not have the intellectual capacity to discern critically important distinctions (). From comments: “Hillary is phony as a 3-dollar bill. And I just watched FDR doing his thing on NPR’s ” The Roosevelts ” , reminding me that in universes other than the one I occupy , it’s possible to have an outstanding progressive , an outstanding candidate , and an outstanding human being , all in one.”

        2. She (like most sociopaths, although it is unclear whether she is one or not) is not able to apologize for mistakes. New York Times:

        In the end, she settled on language that was similar to Senator John Kerry’s when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004: that if she had known in 2002 what she knows now about Iraqi weaponry, she would never have voted for the Senate resolution authorizing force.
        Yet antiwar anger has festered, and yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.
        “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience in Dover, N.H., in a veiled reference to two rivals for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
        Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).
        At the same time, the level of Democratic anger has surprised some of her allies and advisers, and her campaign is worried about how long it will last and how much damage it might cause her.

        3. Due to her greed she and her close entourage represent a huge security risk. Emailgate had shown that as for computer security she is an absolute zero. Absolutely, horribly incompetent and absolutely, horribly greedy (the key idea of private server was to hide her “pay for play” deals related to Clinton foundation). The same level of computer security incompetence is prevalent in her close circle (Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, etc) .

        4. She strongly believe in the neoconservative foreign-policy agenda by re-casting the neoconservatives’ goals in liberal-interventionist terms. In reality the difference between “liberal interventionism” and Neoconservatism are pretty superficial (Kagan already calls himself liberal interventionalist) and Hillary’s willingness to infest a foreign-policy establishment with neocons is beyond any doubt and comparable with Bush II.

        As the recent Republican primary contest had shown neoconservatives have virtually no support among the US voters. Their base is exclusively military-industrial complex. So the reason she is reaching out to those shady figures is a deceptively simple: she shares common views, respects their supposed expertise, and wants them in her governing coalition. That means that “… today’s Democrats have become the Party of War: a home for arms merchants, mercenaries, academic war planners, lobbyists for every foreign intervention, promoters of color revolutions, failed generals, exploiters of the natural resources of corrupt governments. …” ( )

        5. She is completely numb to human suffering. She has a total lack of empathy for other people.

      1. Otis B Driftwood

        Yep. In the meantime, you have to wonder just how bad the false choice between the GOP / Dem has to be before people vote in numbers for a better third-party candidate? Really, can it possible get any worse than Trump v. Clinton?

        Wait … don’t answer that.

        Anyway, I’m voting for Jill Stein, too.

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        Between this post and the VP debate I am growing comfortable with a decision to vote Green and will probably continue voting Green in future elections.

  2. Foppe

    Not that this isn’t an important issue, but I disagree on the desirability of posing wonkish questions in presidential debates, in the hopes of proving that someone didn’t do enough homework. Far too much policy is hidden by the constant recourse to bureaucratic language, which often rests on other policy positions that remain undiscussed. One example: “chained CPI”. Talking about it / taking it seriously presupposes that you subscribe to the notion that poor people may be told to eat cardboard if some economist / committee member designated such an adequate replacement for food. Yet most listeners will not catch on to that fact, were it ever to even come up in a debate.

  3. jgordon

    Words are just words, especially for politicians. If you want an idea of how they would govern, go by what they did in the past. Right now we have the choice between a touchy blowhard with bad hair and a mendacious conniver with bad judgement; you’d be foolish take anything either says too seriously, even aside from the fact that they’re wannabe politicians.

  4. George Dawson

    The response to why the nuclear arsenals need to be so large and constantly updated would have been an interesting one if it had materialized. The fact is even a fairly limited exchange between other nuclear powers with much smaller arsenals has the potential for rapid climate change that renders Earth unlivable.

    The Cold War notion that you just have to hole up a few days to avoid fallout doesn’t really make any more sense than using these weapons in the first place.

    1. nowhere

      Just along these line, I did some order of magnitude calculations based on the US SLBM fleet. Since the MIRV warheads are dial a yield, I calculated a range of 1210 – 1915 Megatons.

      I know your point is more on the limited exchange scenario; just wanted to point out the destructive potential of one country’s submarine nuclear capability.

  5. DJG

    Thanks just for this:
    Of Harding’s speechifying, H.L. Mencken wrote at the time, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges.” Mencken characterized Harding’s rhetoric as “so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.” So, too, with Hillary Clinton. She is our Warren G. Harding. In her oratory, flapdoodle and balderdash live on.

    And when a person keeps pointing out the importance of keeping one’s word, it almost always means that he or she is lying.

    1. John Wright

      If only Clinton could be like Warren G. Harding.

      At least Harding was aware of the damage his friends caused to him: “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights! ”

      As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Harding had the political courage to pardon, and free from prison, Eugene V. Debs for his crime of giving an anti-war speech the Wilson administration did not like.

      Harding did not believe in foreign involvements and was never personally implicated in the financial corruption of his administration.

      The Presidency was pushed on him, and he admitted felt he was not qualified.

      I believe Harding gets a bad rap because he was not the leader of bold actions (wars) and the corruption of people in his administration was well-documented.

      His death was widely mourned in the USA.

      As far as long term harm to the country, the do-nothing Harding was not bad for the country.

      If Clinton is to be compared to Harding, it would be to view Clinton as a “new” Harding who now believes she is well qualified to be President, wants to do much foreign military involvement, perhaps resulting in war, who is now trusting of her sycopathic friends to give her good advice, and who is personally involved in selling government favors (via the Clinton foundation)

      Clinton is probably well coached by well paid advisors in her oratory.

      Probably Harding wrote his own..

      I would prefer Clinton to be like the old Harding, and the country would muddle through.

  6. polecat

    All it would take would be for a couple of strategically placed EMPs over the north american continent …..
    and poof ……. nothing functions anymore …. while we get to stand and watch our ‘supreme’ military launch their roman candles ….

  7. shinola

    When it comes to war & nukes, I believe that HRC is the more dangerous of the two.

    Before I explain, I would like to invite Yves or any female NC reader to consider & give their POV on what I’m about say.

    HRC is more dangerous because she is the 1st woman to become a serious contender for a position that has traditionally been considered a “man’s job”. Therefore she believes she must not, in any way, be perceived as “soft” or lacking “toughness” or aggressiveness. She feels compelled to “out-macho” the macho guys.
    Obviously this could have serious implications in any situation involving escalating tensions. Negotiation or compromise would be off the table if she thought it could be perceived as soft or weak (and she contemplates being a 2 term pres.)

    What say you NC readers? Is this a justified concern or am I letting male bias color my view?

      1. polecat

        Just like obama HAD to show everyone that he was ‘the man’ …..

        and to think our lives are in the hands of these psychopaths …

        duck … and cover !

  8. Thor's Hammer

    The only bright spot in the prospect of a Hellary Klinton presidency is the probability that she may not survive long enough to start a war with Russia. I wonder how the training for the Mark I body double is coming?

    On the other hand, why should anyone think that a bubble-headed blowhard like Trumpet has the intelligence or gumption to have any effect upon the operations of the Warfare State? When the opinion makers of his own party and the neoliberal leaders of Klinton’s party are all riding on the Military-Industrial gravy train looking for the next enemy to keep business booming?

    And how can anyone with a functioning brain cell think that anything a politician says or promises during an election has any connection to how they will act once elected? Remember Obama, Mr. “Audacity of Hope?”

  9. Elizabeth

    @Shinola – I tend to agree with you. Hillary has to prove that she’s the toughest, most aggressive, “don’t mess with me” person on the block. I remember during the 2008 campaign, she broke down and actually cried – I think it was in New Hampshire after losing that primary. I honestly felt a bit of sympathy for her because she really was the target of a lot of misogynistic barbs, and she showed some vulnerability. It made her seem human – but that was the last time I felt that way about her.

    Sometimes I wonder if she and Bill have some sick kind of competition between them. Bill, when he was President, was popular, was politically gifted, and had that “good ole boy” persona. He was likeable! This is not to say he was a great president. Hillary is just the opposite – she comes across mean and bullying, and shrill – much like our foreign policy. Both she and Bill are psychopaths.

    I’d never vote for her because she scares me – she thinks she’s above the law (I guess she is, according to the FBI) and she cares nothing for this country or its people (except her banker/rich friends) . She’s in it for all the grift she can get. I’m all for having a woman as president, but not this woman. She wouldn’t hesitate to push the button to prove how macho she is.

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