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Tobin Harshaw

Trump and the Nuclear Football: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A Q&A with nonproliferation expert and former missileer Bruce G. Blair on the dangers of a "nuclear monarch."
Never again?

Never again?

Source: Hulton Archive via Getty Images

What’s scarier: the thought that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may be able to blow up a major American city with the press of a button, or that President Donald Trump has full authority to do the same to any place in the world? While I’m more worried about the former, plenty of people -- see here and here and here -- think the latter possibility demands a radical rethinking of how the U.S. might go about launching an apocalyptic, or even “tactical,” nuclear weapon strike. 

While Trump may have given the discussion new urgency, it goes way back. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson assured the nation that “an elaborate system of checks and counter‐checks, pro­cedural and mechanical, guard against unauthorized nuclear bursts.” (Curiously, this was during a presidential campaign in which his opponent, Barry Goldwater -- whom Democrats were portraying as an unstable warmonger -- advocated taking away the president’s unilateral authority to launch a strike.)