On Wednesday morning, NBC News provided sane people with more reason to be scared: at a private July 20 meeting with his top national security officials, President Donald Trump said he wanted a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal. He made this remark after being shown a chart that illustrated a steady decrease in the number of US nuclear weapons over the past 50 years. Trump responded by telling his most senior advisers, which included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he wanted the bigger number shown at the start of the downward slope, not the smaller amount at the end. Officials had to explain to Trump that the current level was lower due to years of successful arms treaties and that the nation's overall military posture was now much stronger than in the days of a larger and bloated nuclear arsenal. It was at the end of this meeting -- where other national security matters were discussed -- that Tillerson apparently was overheard referring to Trump as a "moron."
It is indeed worrisome that Trump seemed to adopt a simplistic and dangerous more-is-better approach to nuclear weapons. But what's even more unsettling, as I have previously written, is that Trump has a history of making comments about nuclear weapons that both display his profound ignorance about this all-important subject and suggest he believes a nuclear conflict is inevitable and perhaps destined for the near future.
Trump first demonstrated he knew little about nuclear weapons in the 1980s, when he repeatedly boasted to reporters that he would make a good nuclear arms negotiator and that the job would be easy. In a 1984 interview with the Washington Post, Trump, then a 38-year-old celebrity developer, said he hoped one day to become the United States' chief negotiator with the Soviet Union for nuclear weapons. Trump declared he could negotiate a great nuclear arms deal with Moscow. Comparing crafting an arms accord with cooking up a real estate deal, Trump insisted he had innate talent for this mission. He claimed he would know exactly what to demand of the Russians -- though he conceded his lack of experience in the technical field of nuclear weaponry. "It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles...I think I know most of it anyway," he said. "You're talking about just getting updated on a situation."
A few months earlier, Trump had expressed the same sentiment to a New York Times reporter. The writer noted, "Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him negotiate arms agreements -- he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million. "Negotiations is an art, he says and I have a gift for it." In 1986, Trump told Bernard Lown, a cardiologist who invented the defibrillator and who received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for joining with a prominent Soviet physician to promote nuclear arms reduction, that he could concoct a nuclear disarmament deal with the Soviet Union and end the Cold War in an hour.Go to Mother Jones to read the rest of this article.