Hillary and Trump on nuclear deterrence: Not so different?

It was a huge crowd that attended a recent discussion with a very knowledgeable and exceedingly witty Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia group, moderated by a well known New York radio personality, Brian Lehrer of WNYC, himself a delightful master of repartee.

Naturally, presidential elections were the chief subject of their conversation; neither gentleman being a particular fan of Donald Trump, the discussion largely focused on the gaffes and crudities of his campaign, both the substantive ones and those that, per Mr. Bremmer, were blown out of all proportion by the Democrats and the press.

Among those was Trump's fiscally driven position that if our allies won't chip in toward the common defense, they should be left without America's protective umbrella, and if the nuclear-capable among them, like Japan and South Korea, would as a result decide to build a nuclear arsenal of their own, so be it.

Crazy stuff – which I thought was an excellent segue for my question when time came for the Q&A.  Isn't there a clear symmetry, I asked, between Trump's position on Japan's and South Korea's potential nukes and Obama's/Clinton's position on Iran's?

For clearly, both through the rhetoric (i.e., "knowledge cannot be bombed") and through the Iran deal, which grants Iran's nuclear program full international legitimacy in exchange for a ten-year hiatus in the actual development of a nuclear device, Obama and Clinton signaled their acceptance of Iran's eventual atom bomb.

So how is Hillary, for all her indignation of Trump's lack of understanding of the mortal dangers of nuclear proliferation, any better in that very respect than Trump?

From Brian Lehrer's sudden turn of the body toward me when I mentioned the "exact symmetry" between Trump and Obama/Hillary that signaled momentary puzzlement at that way of framing the argument, I realized that perhaps the issue has not been raised in this form before.

It should be – though of course I was not entirely in the right, either.  There is no symmetry here.  Japan and South Korea are America's allies, while Iran is the bitter enemy of the U.S. and of all she stands for.  So if anything, Hillary/Obama's position in that regard is infinitely worse than Trump's.  While Trump contemplates the possibility of allies' hands on the nuclear button, Obama and Hillary reconciled themselves to letting our enemy – Iran – be able to press it.

Hillary is getting plenty of up-to-date advice from a swarm of advisers day in and day out – so the advice spoken two millennia ago may sound somewhat stale.  And yet, it seems to me that, coming as it does through the mist of past ages, this is by far the best campaign advice Hillary has gotten so far: "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

It was a huge crowd that attended a recent discussion with a very knowledgeable and exceedingly witty Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia group, moderated by a well known New York radio personality, Brian Lehrer of WNYC, himself a delightful master of repartee.

Naturally, presidential elections were the chief subject of their conversation; neither gentleman being a particular fan of Donald Trump, the discussion largely focused on the gaffes and crudities of his campaign, both the substantive ones and those that, per Mr. Bremmer, were blown out of all proportion by the Democrats and the press.

Among those was Trump's fiscally driven position that if our allies won't chip in toward the common defense, they should be left without America's protective umbrella, and if the nuclear-capable among them, like Japan and South Korea, would as a result decide to build a nuclear arsenal of their own, so be it.

Crazy stuff – which I thought was an excellent segue for my question when time came for the Q&A.  Isn't there a clear symmetry, I asked, between Trump's position on Japan's and South Korea's potential nukes and Obama's/Clinton's position on Iran's?

For clearly, both through the rhetoric (i.e., "knowledge cannot be bombed") and through the Iran deal, which grants Iran's nuclear program full international legitimacy in exchange for a ten-year hiatus in the actual development of a nuclear device, Obama and Clinton signaled their acceptance of Iran's eventual atom bomb.

So how is Hillary, for all her indignation of Trump's lack of understanding of the mortal dangers of nuclear proliferation, any better in that very respect than Trump?

From Brian Lehrer's sudden turn of the body toward me when I mentioned the "exact symmetry" between Trump and Obama/Hillary that signaled momentary puzzlement at that way of framing the argument, I realized that perhaps the issue has not been raised in this form before.

It should be – though of course I was not entirely in the right, either.  There is no symmetry here.  Japan and South Korea are America's allies, while Iran is the bitter enemy of the U.S. and of all she stands for.  So if anything, Hillary/Obama's position in that regard is infinitely worse than Trump's.  While Trump contemplates the possibility of allies' hands on the nuclear button, Obama and Hillary reconciled themselves to letting our enemy – Iran – be able to press it.

Hillary is getting plenty of up-to-date advice from a swarm of advisers day in and day out – so the advice spoken two millennia ago may sound somewhat stale.  And yet, it seems to me that, coming as it does through the mist of past ages, this is by far the best campaign advice Hillary has gotten so far: "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."