I recently offered to tutor Donald Trump on nuclear matters. To put things clearly, I went on his website and in the place where you could send comments, I began mine by saying that on these things he did not seem to know his ass from a wheel. I felt that as a person who seems to like straight talk he might appreciate my candor. I then went on to say that while I was not a supporter I would, as a physicist, be willing to tutor him so he would have a clearer understanding of the issue. I have not heard back and the interviews he gave on March 26 to two New York Times reporters—the transcript is available online—show that my services are badly needed.*
One of the reporters was David E. Sanger, who is a very great expert on these matters. He showed in the transcript and a subsequent report an almost Buddhic self-restraint. I wish I had been present when he hung up the phone. The other reporter was Maggie Haberman, formerly of Politico. She began:
I wanted to ask you about some things that you said in Washington on Monday, more recently. But you’ve talked about them a bunch. So, you have said on several occasions that you want Japan and South Korea to pay more for their own defense. You’ve been saying versions of that about Japan for thirty years. Would you object if they got their own nuclear arsenal, given the threat that they face from North Korea and China?
Well, you know, at some point, there is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore. And, I know the upsides and the downsides. But right now we’re protecting, we’re basically protecting Japan, and we are, every time North Korea raises its head, you know, we get calls from Japan and we get calls from everybody else, and “Do something.” And there’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore. Now, does that mean nuclear? It could mean nuclear. It’s a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation. At the same time, you know, we’re a country that doesn’t have money….
We’re not a rich country. We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore. We have a military that’s severely depleted. We have nuclear arsenals which are in very terrible shape. They don’t even know if they work. We’re not the same country, Maggie and David, I mean, I think you would both agree.
It is not clear to me exactly what Maggie and David are being asked to agree to. Is it the notion that having nuclear weapons in Japan and South Korea would help alleviate proliferation—his “biggest problem”—or is…
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