We may no longer be teaching American schoolchildren how to “duck and cover,” but a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the threat of nuclear war is once again on the minds of the American populace. A new poll finds most Americans don’t trust President Trump with the power to launch nuclear weapons, and a majority are at least “somewhat” concerned that he’ll launch an unjustified attack.
The poll comes less than a month after Trump’s tweet comparing the size of his “nuclear button” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to report fear, for example, with almost six in 10 Democrats saying they are “very concerned” about Trump ordering an unjustified nuclear attack, compared to about three in 10 independents and fewer than one in 10 Republicans.
Gender also plays a role, with twice as many women as men saying they are “very” concerned Trump could launch a nuclear attack — 42 percent versus 22 percent.
Those who are most concerned about him launching a nuclear attack without justification are also those who have the least confidence in his mental stability. Only 48 percent of respondents said they thought Trump was mentally stable when asked about the president’s description of himself as a “very stable genius.” Forty-seven percent, meanwhile, don’t think he’s mentally stable.
....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
Eighty-four percent of those who say Trump is not mentally stable are at least somewhat concerned that he could launch an unwarranted nuclear attack, while 72 percent of those who say Trump is stable trust him to handle nuclear weapons.
There isn’t really a “nuclear button”
The image of Donald Trump pushing a button that instantaneously propels nuclear missiles to the location of his choosing is prolific, thanks in no small part to the rhetoric he employs in his tweets. But it’s also not at all accurate.
First of all, there is no button. (Although there is a briefcase.)
Second, there are a handful of steps the president has to go through before an attack can be carried out, including consulting with military and civilian advisers (whom he doesn’t actually have to listen to) and verifying his identity.
But the principle still stands: The president can unilaterally decide to launch a nuclear airstrike. Hence people’s concern.