It’s been quite some time since Americans—and citizens of other nations—had to worry about nuclear war during their daily lives. But it has taken just a few tweets and a couple of utterances from President Donald Trump to remind people that the planet can be turned into ashes by the act of one man. So perhaps Trump should be thanked for providing a sort of real-time public service announcement.
Yet Trump himself has no need for such a reminder. For decades, nuclear weapons—and the prospect of nuclear annihilation—have weighed upon his mind, as I pointed out several months ago. Unfortunately, the contradictory thoughts he has expressed on the subject—most notably that he would make a great nuclear arms negotiator and that nuclear war might indeed be inevitable—are not reassuring for anyone freaking out over the current Trump-generated tweet-crisis involving North Korea and its nuclear weapons program.
In a 1984 interview with the Washington Post, Trump, then merely a 38-year-old celebrity developer, shared his fantasies: He was hoping to build the “greatest hotel in the world” and construct the world’s “tallest” building in New York City—and one day become the United States’ chief negotiator with the Soviet Union for nuclear weapons. In between boasts of how rich and famous he was, Trump declared that he could negotiate a great nuclear arms deal with Moscow and said he wanted to head the US arms negotiating squad. “He says he has never acted on his nuclear concern,” the newspaper reported. “But he says that his good friend Roy Cohn, the flamboyant Republican lawyer, has told him this interview is a perfect time to start.”