I once said that the most important thing a president can do is nominate people to the Supreme Court. I was wrong. The most important thing a president can do is not end the world with nuclear weapons. This should go without saying. A year ago, it would have been. No longer, not under the Republican Party. No longer under the party of Donald Trump.
Trump has voiced approval for Japan and South Korea, two of America’s closest allies, to build nuclear weapons. He’s also open to Saudi Arabia, not exactly America’s closest ally, joining the nuke club. More impressively, he pointedly refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against the Islamic State in the Middle East, and has even floated using these instruments of mass-death in a hypothetical European conflict.
This is, however, not the first time that a Republican nominee for president has espoused such dangerous nuclear talk.
1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, a senator from Arizona, suggested that “low-yield” nuclear devices should be used against the North Vietnamese.
His opponent, President Lyndon Johnson, wasted no time in pointing out the danger to the country and the world.
Johnson’s response was the “Daisy ad,” arguably the most famous political commercial ever. It was aired only once. The ad showed a little girl counting flower petals before an ominous voice in the distance counted down from 10 and a nuclear explosion occurred. Johnson defeated Goldwater in one of the biggest landslides in American history.
“These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark,” Johnson narrated in the commercial. “We must either love each other or we must die.”
Critics disparaged Johnson then, as historians do now, for engaging in mudslinging, dishonest, gutter politics. But the point was well-made. Goldwater wanted increased nuclear use and proliferation. The consequences of that could very easily be, quite literally, the end of the world. There is a reason no serious presidential candidate since then has brought up such dunderheaded ideas.
That is, until Trump.
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent, needs to be just as blunt as LBJ. She needs to hit him until it hurts and show no mercy. This is not the time for playing nice. An unhinged, proto-fascist maniac stands at the gates of the White House. But even all his baggage, worst case scenario, isn’t going to kill one billion people. A nuclear conflict would.
Clinton needs her own Daisy ad. She needs to remorselessly, meanly tell the world that Donald Trump is an insane, racist, wannabe-authoritarian. That letting him get this close to the presidency is a total disgrace and letting him get any further could jeopardize the your life, the lives of your loved ones and everyone you know. That Trump’s hands on the button could cause the vaporization of 100 million Americans and a slow and painful death by radiation for the others.
This is crazy-talk, hyperbolic, absurd, ludicrous, all those fancy adjectives, but with someone as unpredictable as Trump, it is not outside of the realm of possibilities. If you had told me that fascism would take root in America a year ago, I too would have dismissed this as all those adjectives.
What if Trump nukes Islamic State-occupied territory and Russia claims that the strikes harmed some of their forces? What if Vladimir Putin accompanies his saber-rattling with an obligatory quip about the magnitude of Trump’s member? How many will die?
Vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.
Horwitz is a first year law student from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.