Timothy L. O’Brien writes: President Donald Trump returned this week to a recurring and favorite theme of his over the years: nuclear war and annihilation.
He has thought quite a bit about the topic. Really.
Amid the president’s threats to unleash “fire and fury” upon North Korea if the country’s nuclear ambitions continue to expand, look no further than Trump’s late uncle, John Trump, for a window onto POTUS’s thinking.
John Trump, who died in 1985 when he was 77, was a well-regarded engineer and nuclear physicist. He was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 40 years, beginning in 1936. His brother Fred, the president’s wealthy father, paid John’s way through college and graduate school, and John ultimately had a number of nifty accomplishments around food preservation, medical-device sterilization, radiation treatments for cancer and the military uses of radar.
The National Academy of Engineering recognized John after his death as “a pioneer in the scientific, engineering, and medical applications of high voltage machinery” and pointed out that his “mixture of personal technical work and quiet leadership produced many important discoveries.”
John had no experience developing nuclear weapons or nuclear policy, but that has never stopped his nephew from invoking his uncle’s name when he weighs in on those subjects.
So a brief tour of the president’s reminiscences about Uncle John offers a window onto the philosophy, if that’s what it is, of the man in possession of the U.S. nuclear codes.
Take, for example, a small portion of Trump’s campaign speech on July 19, 2016, when he free-associated about the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran:
Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my life credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are — nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right, who would have thought?
Possible takeaways: 1) The president needs therapy; 2) Uncle John was smart because he had good genes and Trump is smart because he shares those genes; 3) “Nuclear is powerful”; 4) “Who would have thought?” [Continue reading…]