The current debate about how President Trump is abusing his role as commander in chief has an even darker, nuclear dimension. If the president can misuse his authority to deploy troops against peaceful American protesters, might he also mishandle his authority to launch nuclear weapons?
Four years ago, the question of who should be trusted with the unchecked authority to start nuclear war rose to be a top presidential campaign issue. As Hillary Clinton said in a speech in San Diego on June 2, 2016, speaking of her opponent: “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”
That “somebody” turned out to be Kim Jong-un, the nuclear-armed leader of North Korea. In 2017 President Trump vowed to rain down “fire and fury” on the North and later taunted Mr. Kim on Twitter that “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” That could be interpreted as a threat to launch a nuclear strike.
Unsettling as it may be, Mr. Trump has the absolute authority to start a nuclear war. Within minutes, the president could unleash the equivalent of more than 10,000 Hiroshima bombs. He does not need a second opinion.