How Do You Feel About Trump-- Or Any President-- Being Able To Launch A Nuclear First Strike Without Congressional Approval?
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) is worth following on Twitter... even if you don't live in his Los Angeles area district (which stretches from Agoura Hills and Malibu in the north, through Santa Monica, Westwood, Venice and Beverly Hills and down to El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes in the south). He often follows live events unfolding and comments on them with an incredible depth of knowledge and wisdom (and humor) in real time, something few members of Congress are willing to do. This morning I asked him about a bill he and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) just introduced in both houses of Congress, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016. The bill is designed to prohibit a President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. "The crucial issue of nuclear first use-- discussed in last evening’s Presidential Debate-- is all the more urgent given the fact that a majority of Americans do not trust Republican Nominee Donald Trump with our nation’s nuclear arsenal."
A full Air Force Colonel in the Air National Reserves, Rep. Lieu expanded on some of his tweeting from the debate. "In last night’s Presidential Debate," he told me, "Donald Trump once again proved that he is categorically unfit to be President of the United States because he lacks the temperament and qualifications to serve as Commander in Chief. As a result, the crucial issue of first use of nuclear weapons is all the more urgent in light of the possibility that Trump could be sworn in as the 45th President in January 2017. That’s why Senator Ed Markey and I have introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016. This legislation would align America’s nuclear weapons policy with the Constitution by prohibiting the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress."
The official press release for the bill emphasizes that "Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution."
Markey was very much on the same page: "Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history."
They enlisted former Secretary of Defense William Perry to help them make the case. He told legislators that during his time at the Pentagon he "never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons-- understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution."
When Ted was first writing the big back in early August, he told us how it had, at least in part, been inspired by Trump's nature. (At the time no one was speculating on Trump's drug addiction the way the whole country is after Monday night's debate and his subsequent denial that he was sniffling for the whole 90 minutes.) "The erratic and impulsive behavior of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has highlighted the structural dangers of America’s nuclear weapons launch protocols," he explained almost 2 months ago. "Having taught the Law of War when I served on active duty, and as a graduate of Air War College, it is clear to me that the traditional checks and balances on the Executive branch do not apply when it comes to nuclear weapons. This process needs to be fixed.
"The President does not need approval from Congress or the courts to launch nuclear weapons. All the President needs is the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, who is appointed by the President.
"When Congress comes back into session," he said at the time, "I plan to introduce legislation that requires the concurrence of leaders in Congress-- who are not beholden to the President-- before a nuclear strike can be launched. We can no longer have the fate of civilization depend on just two people in the Executive Branch."
This isn't a Democratic or a Republican position. It's a constitutional position. I suspect Lieu's bill will get backing from both sides of the aisle, although perhaps some ultra-Trumpists like Texas sociopath Lamar Smith might find it offensive. In any case, please consider letting Ted know you're with him on this by chipping in a couple of bucks towards his reelection campaign.
By the way, 4 polls have come out so far asking who won the debate Monday. And despite Trump's post-debate bluster all 4 are pretty clear who most of the 84 million viewers thought made the better impression. Some deranged people thought Trump won; obviously, mostly people on crack or addicted to prescription drugs. The suburban women who his campaign wanted him to appeal to came away more turned off than ever. The consensus was that he comes across like "a bull in a china shop" and that no one wants their children or grandchildren growing up with him as a figure to emulate or even respect.