In a global crisis, much less a possible nuclear showdown, credibility is essential. President Trump, as I noted yesterday, faces a serious deficit in that regard, since his record of untruthfulness means that Americans don’t know whether to trust him and that foreign leaders have no reason to take his threats seriously.
Right on cue, the president demonstrated the gravity of the problem with a statement Wednesday morning, delivered via Twitter. It’s a classic Trump moment: an untruth that is relatively unimportant on its own but disturbing and confusing as part of a pattern, and extremely easy to debunk.
My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
...Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
This was not only false, but easily proven false. Trump’s first order as president, on January 20, was an “Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal.”
There is no evidence that Trump has made any material changes to the nation’s nuclear preparedness. On January 27, he instructed Defense Secretary James Mattis to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review “to ensure that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.” But that’s a lengthy process, which didn’t begin until April and won’t be concluded until the end of the year.