There are two things about this very stupid story that I can understand, kind of:
1. If Trump actually said we should nuke a hurricane to stop it in its tracks, then that’s funny because it’s a weird and bad idea that was debunked in the ‘50s because the hurricane would act as a perfect vehicle for spreading radiation.
2. If Trump insisted on it, that would be scary.
However, I also know two other things. First, Trump didn’t insist on it, because that would take us to Mad King realms that even he hasn’t reached. Second, this story isn’t being treated as something funny…it’s being treated as “alarming.”
All of which fundamentally misunderstands both Donald Trump and the correct method of combating Donald Trump, all in a very quintessentially Feckless Liberal way.
See, sometimes Trump just says things. That’s part of his modus operandi. So yes, I fully believe that in some meeting, he put on his best blowhard face and was like, “LET’S NUKE THE CANES!” And some people nervously laughed, and told him as politely as possible that it wasn’t prudent. And then, I’m sure, Trump half-forgot the rebuke, because he doesn’t pay attention to literally anything that won’t further the narcissistic narrative he imagines for himself in a running director’s commentary that plays in his bizarre ego-brain, and then at a later meeting he probably said the exact same thing, and the same exact process played out. And then he probably forgot it.
Again, that’s funny…in the sort of absurdist, unsettling way that the dark pageantry of Trump can be funny. But it’s not the stuff of high crimes, because it was never going to be carried out, and that’s not Trump’s way of doing business.
What some liberals want from this story is more evidence that Trump is deranged and/or crazy and/or unstable and/or whatever. “I call him Dangerous Donald,” they say to themselves, echoing Hillary Clinton’s very embarrassing debate moment. But none of that is true, is it? He’s not deranged or unstable or crazy—he’s a monster, but a crafty one, and for very different reasons. He’s also a loudmouth, and this “nuke the hurricanes” moment needs to be recognized as the symptoms of that, and not something more serious. Because—guess what—his supporters know it’s not serious. His non-supporters, for the most part, know it’s not serious. Trump, when he said it, wasn’t that serious—he was just spewing words, the verbal equivalent of throwing wet spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks.
What is serious? Children in cages, attacks on healthcare, legions of conservative judges with lifetime appointments, tax cuts for the wealthiest people that aggravate an already dismal state of inequality, trade wars that threaten recession, and the empowerment of white nationalists like the KKK who now parade close to my hometown with banners echoing Trump’s own slogans.
I mention this not as a lecture, but to emphasize that in order to beat Trump, we have to focus on issues that actually affect average Americans. By flapping our arms in a tizzy every time he says something idiotic but ultimately irrelevant, we contribute to a media culture that emphasizes the superficial and negates the substantial. It’s no coincidence that every time something like this happens, the president perpetuates it on Twitter. He wants the absurdity, and he can turn it to his advantage. There’s nothing the man loves more than a spectacle, even if it seems, at first, to make him look foolish.
Trump’s base won’t care about bombing hurricanes, but they may care about something that impacts their actual lives. Even if they don’t—even if they’re too far gone—the vast millions of potential Democratic voters want inspiration. That inspiration is out there, but it doesn’t come from smug rebuttals to off-the-cuff proposals that were never serious in the first place. It doesn’t come from getting caught in the cyclone that is our president’s media circus. Trump’s greatest ally is distraction, and his biggest enemy is focus.