A few years ago, I can’t remember exactly, I watched Donny Deutsch interview Ann Coulter. At a certain point, Deutsch said he was just going to list countries and give Coulter a chance to respond with her thoughts. He ran down a list of countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America. After each country, Coulter just said “Nuke ’em.” It was one of those incredibly revealing moments that nobody in the brain-dead media noticed. Deutsch was shocked, but he did not really know how to respond.
Ann Coulter, obviously, has no power to drop nuclear weapons or even to persuade anybody with power to do so. The issue is not actual use of weapons, but a particularly glib and dangerous form of nuclear nationalism aimed at her fans.
Most people who follow politics will equate the concept of nuclear nationalism with countries who have either recently acquired nuclear weapons or who aspire to: Iran, Pakistan, India, North Korea. The glorification of the ultimate weapons of destruction–that’s not something we do in the world historical center of nuclear weapons production and deployment, right?
Coulter knew her fans back then–she knew how to throw down the red meat of nuclear nationalism to get people jumping for their credit cards to purchase her books or posters or subscriptions or whatever tripe she was pushing at the time. Nuclear nationalism was just one act in Coulter’s angry white political burlesque.
This week, Coulter’s most successful protege, Donald Trump, went full-on nuclear nationalist. In several different settings, he refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in just about any place on Earth. When pushed by Chris Matthews in a town hall, Trump muttered something about not wanting to “take cards off the table”–as if threatening the use of nuclear weapons was something that a President must do with every foreign leader to keep things running smoothly.
Trump obviously knows nothing about any issue in foreign policy, even less about military strategy. It’s doubtful he knows anything about negotiation. But Trump knows that a sizable chunk of the GOP base can be agitated by rattling the chains of nuclear nationalism. Apparently unaware of this dynamic, a befuddled Chris Matthews gave Trump chance after chance to throw nuclear nationalism at his base.
What amazes me about the American media is that nobody seems to connect Trump’s nuclear nationalism to Ann Coulter and–even more astounding–not a single reporter has connected Trump’s all-but promise of nuclear war to the likes of insane North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or the much maligned former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Trump is not much different than these characters in terms of how he tosses out promises of using nuclear weapons to rally his base, whipping them into a frenzy at the prospect of annihilating foreign enemies they know only through insular single-party propaganda machines.
Of all the hand writing over Trump being the re-incarnation of a certain failed painter turned German mass murdering dictator, it strikes me as much more alarming that Trump is channelling the mouth-breathing antics of Ann Coulter to put himself in a league with the missile waving nuclear sophomores of North Korea and ultra-nationalist Iran.
Just about anyone whose thinking has not been paralyzed by racism, Islamaphobia or anti-Mexican xenophobia can see how utterly ridiculous it would be to allow Donald Trump to have the power to launch a nuclear war.
Sure, it may be possible–hypothetically–for Trump to get enough votes to win a general election. Somehow. But deep down most of us recognize this scenario as the exact purpose of the Electoral College. Man promises to use nuclear weapons? Maybe the Framers were a bunch of guys who never saw a weapon more powerful than a colonial era canon, but they understood there were lunatics who should not be at the helm.
Nuclear nationalism, in other words, can probably “sell” Trump to the same knuckle-dragging crack babies who buy Ann Coulter’s snake oil. But it will also wake people up to a larger reality: that in a system such as ours, a popular election can go awry. And if that happens, we need to consider the alternatives.
The only things stopping our democracy from working, of course, is the astounding level of brainlessness that has shown its head this election–combined with an almost entirely useless Fifth Estate, a level of gun ownership coupled with conspiracy paranoia found only in experimental horror films from the 1970s, and a GOP Congress concerned more with harassing President Obama like drunks at closing than with actual governing or, you know…responsibility.
Um, yeah. Not very reassuring.
In the meantime, as Chris Matthews warned, every leader of every nation on Earth is looking at Trump and thinking that the once great nation of the United States has produced a leading candidate who sounds just like nuclear nationalist demagogues in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan. One can only imagine how good that would be for the nation, should it come to pass–somehow–that Donald Trump were to become the first Ann Coulter elected President.
Not good at all.