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Opinion: Nuclear launch ‘football’ must immediately be taken from Trump

We are at another moment of grave threat from an erratic, delusional, self-destructive megalomaniac

  • Thursday, October 8, 2020 11:09am
  • Opinion

By Rick Steiner

Trump’s COVID-19 illness renders him mentally incapacitated, heavily medicated and an existential security threat to the nation and world. This necessitates the immediate removal of the president’s unilateral first-strike command authority for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The U.S. today has over 1,300 deployed nuclear weapons on hair-trigger, high alert; on missiles, bombers, and submarines; with a combined yield tens of thousands of times the Hiroshima detonation — all just a phone call away from an ill, mentally unstable, angry, increasingly unhinged man.

Medical scientists report that many patients with COVID-19 experience significant neurological symptoms including confusion, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, incoherent thoughts, delusions and mood disorders — something known as a “COVID-fog.” On top of Mr. Trump’s other ‘pre-existing conditions’ of mental instability, vindictive rage, delusions of grandeur, obsession with power and collapsing political and business fortunes, COVID-19 now renders him a very real and present danger to national and global security. Even those in his inner circle reportedly think Mr. Trump is increasingly unstable and “acting crazy.”

Thus, just as at the tumultuous end of the Nixon presidency in 1974, when the nuclear “football” (with launch codes) was removed from the president’s control, the same must be done immediately with President Trump.

As Politico’s Garrett Graff reports in “The Madman and the Bomb,” during the final days of the Nixon presidency, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger feared that Nixon, who was depressed and drinking heavily, might order an unprovoked nuclear first strike. Graff writes that: “Nixon himself had stoked official fears during a meeting with congressmen during which he reportedly said, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” Sen. Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger, warning about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.” In response, Schlesinger gave the unprecedented order that: “If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them.”

Today we are at another moment of grave threat from an erratic, delusional, self-destructive megalomaniac. Trump today is a far greater threat than Nixon ever was.

And just as Senator Cranston warned in 1974, today we urgently need to keep a mentally incapacitated, potentially “berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.” The Joint Chiefs and Defense Secretary Mark Esper must immediately withdraw the nuclear launch authority and codes from a physically ill, heavily medicated, mentally unstable president.

• Rick Steiner is a biologist in Anchorage, former professor with the University of Alaska, and author of “Oasis Earth: Planet in Peril.” He worked in the Nixon White House mailroom as the Nixon presidency collapsed. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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