Background Briefing: October 3, 2018


A President Out of Control But With the Nuclear Button

We begin with the uncontrolled outburst that spewed from President Trump at a rally in Mississippi last night as he belittled Dr. Blasey Ford who testified against Judge Kavanaugh. Despite having been repeatedly cautioned by his handlers not to inflame a delicate political situation as Kavanaugh’s fate hangs by a thread, Trump clearly could not restrain himself and his vitriolic mockery of Dr. Ford offended the very senators who are the swing votes Trump needs to seat Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Joseph Cirincione, the President of the Ploughshares Fund and author of “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons”, joins us to discuss the danger of having a president who cannot control himself but has access to the nuclear button. Although we have been lucky the country has not faced a crisis so far, the fact remains that Trump has the power at his fingertips to destroy the world. We assess the difference between a Trump Administration full of unqualified amateurs like Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, who just threated to “take out” Russian nuclear missiles on their territory, and how President Kennedy handled the Cuban missile crisis by overruling his hawks who recommended a nuclear strike which would have led to a nuclear war. In contrast if a real crisis struck, an erratic and uncontrollable Trump would be goaded on by his hawks John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.


Do the American People Still Expect Decorum and Dignity From Their President?

Then we speak with an historian of American political discourse and presidential rhetoric, Jennifer Mercieca, a Professor in the Department of Communications at Texas A&M University about the response to Trump’s mockery of Dr. Blasey Ford from the three key senators whose votes he needs to confirm Kavanaugh; Senators Flake, Collins and Murkowski.  We will discuss whether there is still an expectation among the American people that their head of state exhibit decorum and dignity or are we back to the days of Andrew Jackson with the difference being that Trump does not settle scores with dueling pistols but rather uses Twitter to insult and demean his enemies real and imagined.


Trump’s Constitutional Authority and the Limits Placed On It

Then finally we explore both the constitutional authority of the President of the United States and the constitutional restraints imposed on this authority and speak with Corey Brettschneider, a Professor of Political Science at Brown University and author of the new book “The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents”. He joins us to discuss whether, while California develops its own foreign and immigration policy and signs international climate treaties, a president under investigation can pardon himself, fire anyone in the executive branch or wage war without congressional approval.