WASHINGTON – Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger tried to get himself thrown out of the Army by dressing in women’s clothes instead of his uniform in the television series “M*A*S*H.”
Klinger was a welcome character in America’s living rooms because he was only pretending to be unhinged. He just wanted to get out of the bloody Korean War.
Last Thursday, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump claimed to have seen a video showing Iranians unloading American cash when Iran released U.S. hostages. No such video has been found to exist. The next day, the Trump campaign appeared to walk the assertion back.
It’s been increasingly speculated that Trump may only be clowning, or even trying to exit the campaign by behavior friends describe as aberrant. Others are wondering if he isn’t actually mentally unstable, or worse.
There are millions who hoped a Republican could be found to responsibly call Hillary Rodham Clinton to account for her careless handling of sensitive government data, her alliances with Wall Street, her flip-flops on trade and her failure to adequately support law enforcement. That hope appears to be dissolving in the wake of Trump’s blind fury and his unquenchable appetite for revenge. But he could still win.
Consider this: The victor on Nov. 8 will have absolute control over the “football.” That’s the nickname for the president’s emergency satchel, a computer holding all the codes and commands he needs for launching thermonuclear war. A military aide carries the football right behind the president when he travels.
Defenseone.com describes it this way: At a president’s fingertips is the ability to launch almost 1,000 nuclear warheads within a few minutes with the destructive power of 22,000 Hiroshimas.
At all times, the U.S. military maintains 975 warheads on “hard alert,” meaning prepared to launch. The arsenal includes 435 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 120 submarine-launched missiles containing at least 540 warheads – each of them six to 30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
The Bulletin of Atomic Sciences says that of the roughly 1,930 thermonuclear warheads that are deployed, about 1,750 are ICBMs or at bomber bases in the United States, with another 180 tactical nuclear bombs deployed in Europe. The Air Force, the bulletin says, operates 440 silo-based Minuteman III ICBMs in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana.
There are instances where Trump isn’t kidding. One is the 12-year campaign to fight the New York Education Department for sanctioning his fake Trump University.
Last week, Trump vengefully refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is facing a primary contest Tuesday. Ryan, after first saying he was not ready, endorsed Trump and chaired last month’s Republican National Convention. Trump’s behavior was so over the top that Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, promptly endorsed Ryan.
With Republicans struggling to maintain control of the U.S. Senate this fall, Trump declined to endorse GOP incumbents John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, both of whom endorsed Trump. Again breaking with Trump, Pence endorsed them both.
Trump is repeatedly demonstrating his unsteadiness, or worse. He is also showing an even more dangerous trait for a would-be president. Willful, yes, but he does not, or cannot, listen to anyone. Former Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has publicly urged Trump to govern his mouth. He doesn’t listen to his children, his friends or his paid campaign advisers.
As a candidate Trump’s personality is wantonly destructive. In a president with the “football” following him around, it is potentially lethal to this country and the world.