Two days before Christmas, president-elect Donald Trump took to his Twitter account and threatened to do away with a longstanding non-proliferation treaty regarding nuclear weapons, even as his own advisers seemingly contradicted him.
Offering little context as to what he meant, Trump startled the political world by saying that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” He made things even more complicated when on the same day, he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he has no problem with the country taking part in a renewed “arms race,” saying, “we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
The statements from the president-elect were perfect fodder for veteran journalist Dan Rather, who is a frequent Trump critic on his widely-followed Facebook page. On the same day of the tweet, Rather warned Trump and his team that “nuclear weapons are not a game,” adding that they are “not a toy for the petulant and ill-informed to boast about on off-handed tweets.
“[Nuclear weapons] are a direct shortcut to the very end of life on earth as we know it,” Rather wrote in his Facebook post from December 23.
“I suspect Donald Trump knows very little about our nuclear posture, its history, and the delicate balance our presidents have been walking since the early days of the Cold War.”
“This was a man who in a primary debate didn’t seem to understand our nuclear triad. And that’s ‘Nukes for Dummies’ level. Now recent tweets and comments suggest he’s thinking of a new arms race,” Rather continued. “When Mr. Trump suggested that countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons during the campaign his apologists told those of us who were worried, he didn’t really mean it. Where are those voices now? Because whether he means what he says, or even knows what he means, really doesn’t matter at this point. Just by Trump saying it, the world order that we have known is at risk.”
Along with the post, Rather shared a link from POLITICO which chronicled events in the wake of Trump’s comments. In the piece, Madeline Conway reports that after Trump’s alleged attempts to restart an arms race, members of his staff scurried to clarify his rhetoric.
After the remark was reported on MSNBC, though, incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer pushed back and insisted that the remarks came from a “private conversation” with “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski. While he told the “Today” Show’s Matt Lauer that “there is not going to be” an arms race, he told CNN that Trump is not going to “take anything off the table,” either.
But according to Rather, “the stakes with nuclear weapons are so high, that even slight changes in their status are cause for great concern.”
“What Donald Trump is suggesting is at a level that would have us return to one of the most dangerous chapters in history,” he concluded.
Read Dan Rather’s Facebook post in full here.