I cast my first vote for president in 1964. That was the year that President Johnson said if we voted for Goldwater we’d end up at war in Vietnam. I did and we did.
President Johnson ran a commercial in that campaign that has become the most famous and most controversial commercial in the history of presidential elections. And it ran only one time.
In it a 3 year-old girl was shown picking petals off a daisy as a nuclear mushroom cloud rose behind her. The implication was clear. A temperamental President Goldwater would “drop the bomb.”
Well, that commercial is back. So is the little girl who picked the petals off the daisy. She’s older now. Old enough to have become so learned and sophisticated in the way of nuclear warfare that she can instruct us on the risk of nuclear holocaust if we vote for Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton feeds that lie every day on the campaign trail. “Do we want Donald Trump’s fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes?”
It’s as though president’s fingers hover over a button 24 hours a day that he might push, in a fit of pique, to start a nuclear war. That, of course, is so risible that it doesn’t even deserve a response and she, after living beside it for eight years, knows that. If she doesn’t she is not competent to be president. It fits, though, with the rest of her campaign in that it simply is not true.
However, just in case you’re a bit jumpy let’s review it.
In the unlikely event that a missile is fired against us the president is expected to respond without the benefit of detailed planning and advice from every agency in our national security apparatus.
A military aide stays within a few feet of the president throughout his presidency carrying what is called the “football,” a communications device into which the president would enter the nuclear codes written on the “biscuit” that he keeps in his possession that would instruct the launchers of our missiles to “fire away.”
He would be notified by our military alert system that a missile has been launched against us and would be told how many minutes he has to act.
The president would be in contact throughout the event with the Military Command Center as he makes the final decision.
The military officer with the football is also in contact with his chain of command. When instructed to do so he proffers the equipment for the president to act.
What the president uniquely does control on his person is the “biscuit,” a card with the code on it that is changed from time to time. That biscuit is what Donald Trump’s “fingers would be on.”
To put the proper sense of suspense on this risk of national catastrophe one only needs to recall when Mrs. Clinton’s husband had that enormous responsibility.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col Robert Patterson tells us that on the day after the Monica Lewinsky story became public he had the routine job of asking President Clinton to exchange the biscuit for one with a new code. President Clinton had lost the biscuit. I don’t know if Mrs. Clinton helped search the private quarters for the biscuit, but she almost certainly knew it had been lost.
The Clinton campaign is marching out some retired military officers who served in that nuclear chain of command and who oppose Trump. They belittle themselves and their role in our nuclear defense by implying that a president could act alone.
The president simply cannot wake up in a bad mood one day and decide to drop the big one on Tuscaloosa after Nick Sabin defeated his alma mater one more time.
John Kline is retiring this year after having served 14 years as a Member of Congress from Minnesota. He also had a distinguished career as a marine that included carrying the nuclear football for President Reagan. I asked John what might happen if a president woke up one day and decided to nuke Moscow. “Nothing.” He said.
By saying that Trump could initiate a nuclear bomb independently is not only wrong, it’s a lie. They know that, but her campaign has not been a campaign burdened with honesty or fact.
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