In his big New York Times interview the other day, Donald Trump said countries with “nuclear capability” represent the “biggest problem the world has.” That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say.
Except, moment later, the candidate said the United States has to “talk about” allowing Japan and South Korea to have a nuclear arsenal of their own. He also referred to his fear of “nuclear global warming,” whatever that is.
Last night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper tried to explore this issue in more detail with the Republican presidential frontrunner.
COOPER: Let’s talk about nuclear issues because you talked about this in a really interesting article in The New York Times.TRUMP: One of the very, very big issues. I think maybe the biggest issue of our time.COOPER: That’s what you said to The New York Times. You said you worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons the most. You also said, though, that you might support Japan and South Korea developing nuclear weapons of their own. Isn’t that completely contradictory?TRUMP: No, not at all. Look, you have North Korea has nuclear weapons. And he doesn’t have a carrier yet but he has got nuclear weapons. He soon will have. We don’t want to pull the trigger. We’re just – you know, we have a president, frankly, that doesn’t – nobody is afraid of our president. Nobody respects our president. You take a look at what’s going on throughout the world. It’s not the country that it was.
Cooper, to his credit, tried to get the candidate to focus on the issue. “But if you’re concerned about proliferation,” the anchor said, “letting other countries get nuclear weapons, isn’t that proliferation?” Trump responded by talking about the national debt and “the very, very bad omnibus budget that was just signed.”
Cooper went on to note that U.S. policy has long opposed nuclear proliferation in Japan and South Korea. Trump said it may be “time to change” this posture.
“So some proliferation is OK?’ the host asked. “No, no, not proliferation,” Trump said. “I hate nuclear more than any.”
Cooper, understandably confused by Trump’s incoherence, tried to understand why Trump supports and opposes nuclear proliferation at the same time. The candidate responded by expanding the conversation to nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia.
COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. […]COOPER: So you’re saying you don’t want more nuclear weapons in the world but you’re OK with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?TRUMP: I don’t want more nuclear weapons.
The GOP candidate then started complaining about the national debt again and President Obama’s focus on the climate crisis.
I simply lack the adjectives necessary to reflect on comments like these. Obviously, Trump has plenty of supporters, but who exactly is prepared to argue that his comments on nuclear proliferation last night made any sense whatsoever?
Or more to the point, who saw this exchange and sincerely came away thinking, “Yep, this guy’s clearly ready to be Commander in Chief”?