“This is on par with Reagan’s ‘Tear Down This Wall’ speech.” That is how Lindsey Graham characterized the Adderall-themed speech delivered by Donald Trump on Wednesday. In what was obviously an effort at engaging in the Trumpists’ favorite pastime – “triggering the libs” – Graham also declared that “this speech will be talked about long after his [Trump’s] second term.” The Republican Senator’s ridiculous statements earned him a good dose of laughter on MSNBC, and also a comment from Michael Steele, former Chairman of the RNC, who stated that Lindsey must be “smoking stuff none of us should get their hands on because it clearly does something to the brain.”
It’s possible that the people who make up Trump’s hardcore base will simply take Lindsey Graham’s description of the Sniffer-in-Chief’s address at face value because they just can’t be bothered to watch a ten-minute speech and then make up their own minds. But outside of this very limited circle, nobody is being fooled. Neither the delivery nor the content of the address will be remembered for more than a few days, and history will not look back kindly at what we are witnessing right now.
In fairness to the speechwriters, it should be noted that they were faced with the near-impossible task of having to produce a text which sounded somewhat presidential and that Donald Trump would nevertheless still be able to read off a teleprompter with at least a modicum of authenticity and without tripping up too many times. Predictably, the result was far from being a rhetorical masterpiece, but it still contained a few hurdles – such as the words “tolerated” and “accomplishments” – that Mr. Trump failed to clear.
Given the botched performance, it was not easy to fully take in the content of Donald Trump’s words as he addressed the nation, but it is well worth looking at what the President of the United States actually said on this occasion. Somewhere in the middle of his speech, Trump – just being his usual self – started bragging about the military and about U.S. missiles which he described as being “big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast.” He then went on to say that “under construction are many hypersonic missiles.” This remark has drawn a good number of comments on social media and has sparked a debate on whether Donald Trump – yet again – carelessly revealed highly classified information that might pose a risk to national security.
While the existence of U.S. research programs into hypersonics is by no means top secret information – a research report to Congress on the potential of this type of weaponry has been in the public domain for about a year – the words Trump used in Wednesday’s speech seem to suggest that the United States has moved on from the research phase to actually building hypersonic missiles. As it is safe to assume that other nations are listening very carefully to what Donald Trump is saying – they may put more care into parsing his words than he puts into choosing them – this revelation could have significant consequences. It is no secret that Vladimir Putin is both extremely ambitious and extremely paranoid when it comes to trying to keep up with the United States in the international arms race. Trump’s words – whether they were accurate or not – might therefore serve to accelerate and intensify existing efforts to build up an arsenal of weapons that would fundamentally change the face of international warfare. A hypersonic missile, once launched, reaches its target so fast, it leaves no time for interception, an early warning for people to get to safety or an analysis of the threat situation that would work to eliminate errors. It’s a do-or-die scenario.
Regardless of the narrative that Trump surrogates are trying to push in public, none of what has been said or done over the past few days has made the world a safer place. It is time for people like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell – people who claim to love their country – to step up and end this charade before it’s too late.