The Corner

Politics & Policy

Distorting Trump on Nuclear War

Via Chris Deaton of The Weekly Standard, I watched a new Priorities USA ad giving Trump the Dr. Strangelove treatment. It distorts Trump’s words at least twice.

Like a previous ad from the Democratic SuperPAC, it strings together a November 2015 quote from Trump saying, ”I love war, in a certain way,” with a April 2016 quote saying “including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.” The impression is that he’s saying he loves nukes. As both Politifact and Factcheck.org pointed out, though, the second portion of that quote came in the context of a Trump comment about how Japan should defend itself from North Korea. The idea that Japan should have nuclear capability is certainly controversial, but the ad twists his words rather than hits him on what he actually said.

The new ad also takes a comment Trump made during a December 2015 debate out of context. The ad both uses audio of Trump and runs this text: ”Nuclear, just the power, the devastation is important to me.” The impression the ad leaves is that Trump cherishes nuclear bombs because they’re so devastating. Trump was actually commenting on how dangerous nuclear weapons would be in the hands of “some maniac.” Here’s the full exchange:

HUGH HEWITT: Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I’m frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.

But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out — if we didn’t have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can’t just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn’t care. It was hand-to-hand combat.

The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.

TRUMP: I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.

Trump was criticized at the time for not knowing what the nuclear triad is. But Priorities USA is making Trump sound like an enthusiast for the use of nuclear weapons–even if it has to make up evidence to do it.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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