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“I’m the only thing standing between you and the apocalypse.”
—Hillary Clinton, October 11, 2016
It’s 6 a.m. on August 9, 2017. On this day a year ago, presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested his supporters ought to assassinate Hillary Clinton if she won the presidency.
“And by the way, If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, there’s nothing you can do, folks,” he told a crowd of sycophants at a rally. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
On Facebook, legendary journalist Dan Rather wrote “this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics” and warned: “[A]nyone who still pretends this is a normal election of Republican against Democrat, history is watching. And I suspect its verdict will be harsh.”
But by the next day, Trump’s call for his followers to kill the woman most of us expected to be the next president was forgotten. America had grown accustomed to Trump daily saying extreme, unimaginably reckless, irresponsible things that would’ve ended any other candidates’ campaign.
Today, he isn’t just an erratic candidate subverting the norms of campaigns. Against all odds and all humanity, he’s the President* of the United States, subverting the norms of presidential leadership instead.
And yesterday, he used the same sort of extreme, unimaginably reckless, irresponsible rhetoric that should’ve ended his candidacy – and should end his presidency – to threaten to rain down nuclear hellfire on North Korea.
For years, North Korea has threatened to destroy America, at times threatening to turn Washington, D.C. into “a sea of fire” (read this list). That sort of bluster nothing new.
What is new is that America now has an easily goaded, impulsive president who actually takes the bait.
Reacting to the news that North Korea had made progress on miniaturizing nuclear warheads, Trump – from the golf resort where he is enjoying a 17-day vacation – warned that if North Korea continues to taunt the U.S., “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
That rhetoric sounds far more like the rhetoric of the tinpot dictator of North Korea that anything a U.S. President should say. Trump – an insecure bully of a man who thinks strength and power consists of tough talk and anger – will never understand the power of diplomacy, or the strength it takes to “walk softly.”
Shortly after, Trump was back to angrily ranting on Twitter about the “AmazonWashingtonPost” and “FailingNewYorkTimes.” North Korea soon called his bluff by threatening to strike Guam.
By evening, “Nuclear War” was trending on Twitter. For the first time since the height of the Cold War, nuclear war seemed like a real possibility.
And not a damn voter in this country has a right to be shocked.
If you voted for Donald Trump, you voted for a man who you had every reason in the world to believe might very well wreak havoc and doom if he were put in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal.
Hillary Clinton certainly knew. She spent the whole of 2016 trying to warn you.
“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” she famously said during her historic acceptance speech as the Democratic nominee for President.
It was a line she continued to repeat throughout the campaign.
"A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons." —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 29, 2016
The President, she pointed out, has sole authority to use nuclear weapons:
When the president gives the order to launch a nuclear weapon, that’s it. The officer has to launch. It can take as little as four minutes.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 20, 2016
Over and over again, Hillary tried to impress upon us the danger of making an ignorant, short-sighted, tiny-handed narcissist the President of the United States – and the sole master of an arsenal of weapons capable of destroying the world.
“I’m the only thing standing between you and the apocalypse,” Hillary said on October 11th, 2016. It would’ve been a grandiose, over-the-top pronouncement in any other race against any other candidate. But not against Trump.
Trump had already made his fascination with nuclear weapons clear. At one point in the campaign, he said the world needed more nuclear weapons, not fewer.
Last August, Morning Joe host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough released an eye-opening report on Trump’s fascination with nuclear weapons:
“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump,” Scarborough said. “And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them.”
It was never a secret that Trump was unfit temperamentally to be president. It was never a secret that he was too ignorant and self-absorbed to have the fate of the world put in his hands. It was never a secret that handing the nuclear codes over to a man like him would immediately put the fate of millions in peril.
When Americans went to vote, they knew that Hillary Clinton was prepared. They knew she was a competent and experienced leader who was more knowledgeable about American government and foreign policy than perhaps anyone who had ever run. They knew she was by far the most qualified person to run in decades – perhaps ever.
Americans equally knew that Trump was unfit to be president. They knew of his ignorance, impulsivity, and todderlike approach to leadership.
They knew that in a world of small, erratic men with deadly weapons, America’s president must be calm in crisis, and must understand the power of diplomacy and of thoughtful, quiet, measured strength. They knew that only Hillary Clinton could fill those shoes.
But against all sanity and reason, 63 million Americans voted to make Donald Trump President of the United States. And why? “Because he tells it like it is.” “Because I’m angry!” “Because I want to send a message!” “Because of her
On October 11th, Hillary warned America: “I’m the only last thing left standing between you and the apocalypse.”
On November 8th, 63 million Americans responded: “But your emails!”
We ignored Hillary’s warnings because, once upon a time, we were silly enough to believe that an ambitious woman with a private email server was a graver threat to our national security than a ranting madman with a nuclear football.
Now, nearly 8 months into the Trump presidency, the world is forced to reckon with the truth of what she tried to tell us.