Once again Democrats have launched an utterly hopeless, totally symbolic attempt embarrass President Trump. Two Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would strip President Trump of the right to launch nuclear weapons without congressional approval on the basis that Mr. Trump cannot be trusted with the responsibility to not accidentally start a nuclear war.
Foreign Policy magazine reports that Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced bills to both houses of Congress that would restrict the president’s ability to order a nuclear attack. Specifically, the bills would prohibit the president from ordering a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war from Congress.
The last time that Congress issued a formal declaration of war was June 5, 1942 against the Axis allies Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. Declarations of war against Japan, Germany and Italy had been issued in December 1941 shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists,” Sen. Markey said in a statement excerpted in Foreign Policy. “Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation.”
Likewise, during the campaign, Hillary Clinton had charged, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Others, such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists also share the view. The group moved its Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight this week and blamed one man for the decision. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter,” two of the group’s members wrote in the New York Times. They cited Trump’s comments about “expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal” and his climate change skepticism as reasons for the change.
Still, there seems to be no hard evidence that the world is in more danger with President Trump’s finger on the nuclear button. While Mr. Trump has signaled that he is not afraid of a trade war and has already continued the shooting war against ISIS and al-Qaeda, there doesn’t seem to be any sign that he is ready to launch a nuclear first strike.
There seem to be only two pieces of evidence that the nuclear worriers have against Donald Trump. The first is that he makes off-the-cuff remarks and tweets. While the tweets and comments are sure to cause problems – see this week’s rift with Mexico – it is unlikely that they will escalate into a shooting war, much less a nuclear one.
The second is that Trump won’t ignore things like China’s military expansion in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The problem of choosing whether to appease the world’s dictators or resist them is one that Hillary Clinton would face as well. In fact, the second charge against Trump is remarkably similar to a spurious claim made by Trump supporters that a “Hillary Clinton presidency means nuclear war” with Russia.
There are signs that the new president is taking the responsibility of holding the nuclear “football” seriously. In an interview with ABC News, Trump said, “When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment, yes. It’s very, very scary, in a sense.”
The Democrat proposal has exactly zero chance of becoming law. With Trump allies in control of both houses of Congress and without dangerous rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration on the issue, the bills will be dead on arrival. In reality, the bills were never meant to pass. They were meant to embarrass the president. Instead, they may embarrass the Democrats among more moderate voters by showing them to be shrill alarmists.
Since his election, there are indications that President Trump is rising to the occasion. The seriousness with which he seems to take his responsibility as commander-in-chief of the US military is one such example. It’s a pity that Democrats aren’t doing the same.
Originally published on The Resurgent