CNN’s Jake Tapper delivers a monologue on the Wednesday broadcast of his show The Lead on President Trump’s recent language about nuclear proliferation and dealing with North Korea.
“What is clear is that the tweet from earlier today, as well as yesterday’s threat of fire and fury directed at North Korea, fits the pattern of President Trump speaking more loosely, and in the view of critics, recklessly about the most devastating weapon known to man, more so than leader of any Western nation,” Tapper said this afternoon.
“A […] theme we have seen throughout two decades’ worth of statements is a clear lack of policy depth on this issue, one in inverse proportion to the force with which Mr. Trump expresses his views on nuclear weapons,” the CNN host said.
“That is a confusion as to why the U.S. has taken the use of nuclear weapons off the table, a desire for increased proliferation of nuclear weapons, and a clear lack of policy depth about nuclear weapons,” Tapper said.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news in the world led. The rhetoric in the U.S.-North Korea standoff intensified again today, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis the latest to issue a stark warning, telling Kim Jong-un his country — quote — “must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons” and — quote — “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
The U.S. and North Korea are trading threats after U.S. intelligence assessed that North Korea has produced missile-ready miniaturized nuclear weapons, crossing a key threshold in its nuclear program.
We’re also learning today that the president spoke extemporaneously, according to sources, when he issued that stark warning yesterday of “fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen” if North Korea continues to threaten the U.S.
North Korea then made another threat, preemptive military strikes against the U.S. territory of Guam.
Our team of CNN reporters is spread out across the globe, from Beijing to Pentagon, from Guam to the president’s vacation spot in New Jersey, covering all angles of this fast-moving story.
Earlier, the president tweeted what was presumably intended as a NATO warning to North Korea, writing — quote — “My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. Hopefully, we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”
The presidential memorandum to which he was referring, actually the ninth, not the first one issued, directed the Pentagon to launch a review of U.S. nuclear posture and strategy. It is unclear how much modernizing has happened since that order was issued to make the arsenal “stronger and more powerful than ever before.”
It has, after all, only been six months since Mr. Trump’s order. And the Pentagon has said the review did not actually start until April.
But it is a move that will require billions to be allocated by Congress. And it would be subject to treaties with other nuclear powers.
What is clear is that the tweet from earlier today, as well as yesterday’s threat of fire and fury directed at North Korea, fits the pattern of President Trump speaking more loosely, and in the view of critics, recklessly about the most devastating weapon known to man, more so than leader of any Western nation.
We have analyzed two decades’ worth of comments about nukes by President Trump and we found three recurring themes that pose significant breaks from the consensus of Western leaders on this issue.
First is the president expressing confusion as to why the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons if it is not willing to use them. There doesn’t appear to be any concept in these statements of the lethality of the weapon, nor the moral, strategic and environmental risks using these weapons might pose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nuclear weapons should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly. Possibly.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in ’45, heard it. They’re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This dovetails with the second theme, the president’s position in favor, in favor of nuclear proliferation. This is a staggering break from the widespread view that the U.S. should do all that it can to dissuade other countries from pursuing these deadly weapons.
As he told Wolf Blitzer last year, the president is more than willing for other countries to develop their own nuclear arsenals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea to become nuclear powers?
TRUMP: I’m prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are right now the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A third theme we have seen throughout two decades’ worth of statements is a clear lack of policy depth on this issue, one in inverse proportion to the force with which Mr. Trump expresses his views on nuclear weapons.
As was seen perhaps notably at a CNN debate in 2015, when conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Mr. Trump about the nuclear triad, that is the U.S. strategy of having nukes on land, in the air and at sea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, MODERATOR: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? …read more