Danielle McLaughlin: 'Trump, the apprentice with the fear factor'

This is the finger that could end up hovering over the "launch" button.
REUTERS

This is the finger that could end up hovering over the "launch" button.

OPINION: In her second 'Kiwi in New York' column, Danielle McLaughlin gets an uneasy feeling of deja vu now that Donald Trump has won the Republican primary race.

The TriBeCa film festival closed a few weeks ago with a hard-hitting multi-media exploration of nuclear proliferation entitled The Bomb. My good friend of 10 years, Emma Belcher, played an outsize role in bringing it to life. Just before the show, Emma joined a panel to discuss the threat, and the art that she hopes will restart conversations about it. She sat in a folding director's chair on stage with artist Smriti Keshari, author Eric Schlosser, and Michael Douglas. Romancing the Stone Michael Douglas. Non-proliferation activist Michael Douglas.  Small-framed and lean. He spoke softly and knowledgeably. I thought back to my childhood. Growing up amidst the huge anti-nuclear movement in New Zealand in the 1980s. My pride in our exit from Anzus on principle. Our 31-year stand against all things nuclear. I took iPhone photos of Emma and Michael Douglas from the second row of the 100-seat theatre. I tried to play it cool.

Art sometimes forces us to face our beliefs and priorities. Certainly, The Bomb was designed to remind us how close we are to obliterating ourselves. In the wake of the news this week that Donald Trump has clinched the Republican presidential nomination, I am reminded of the grave danger his presidency might present. Not only to America, but to the world. I'm looking at you, New Zealand. It's not just that Trump, a political opportunist, eschews Republican platforms while running as one. Or that Trump spent decades exploiting the people he purports to represent. It's not just that Trump injected bar-room brawling into a serious and important political race. It's that a President Trump would direct the foreign policy and military strategy of the most powerful nation in the world. This is a man who, a few months ago, didn't know what the nuclear triad was (it's the system of deploying nuclear weapons by air, sea, or land). A man who suggested South Korea and Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons. A man who enthusiastically espouses committing war crimes.

Certainly, you can learn to be president.  But your weaknesses and narcissism take up residence at the White House with you. Trump at the helm of a $600 billion military budget, and in possession of the nuclear codes? Trump, upending the delicate détentes the Obama Administration has secured (including, perhaps, for the first time since Anzus broke apart, a US naval vessel in New Zealand waters for the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary celebrations)? That is what I fear most about his presidency.

Speaking of fear, The Bomb evoked the beautiful machines mankind has created to destroy itself. I stood in a dark theatre encircled by eight, 30-foot high projection screens raised like a crown above me. Birdsong emerged from the din, then folded into bone-reverberating house music. The screens came to life. Satellite footage of continents and oceans spun around the room. Then thousands of North Korean soldiers. Beautiful and terrifying in their symmetry, marching alongside nuclear warheads. Oppenheimer's blueprints overlaid footage of atomic testing in the New Mexico desert. Animals in cages, brutalised by the shock wave. Hiroshima.  

And then, it just stopped. I left the theatre. I joined Emma for champagne. My ears rang. The Bomb spoke to me: The threat is real, and we need to address it. The same is true of Trump.

* Expat Kiwi Danielle McLaughlin, a Manhattan lawyer and American TV political commentator, is the Sunday Star-Times' correspondent in the USA.

 

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