Rare are elections in which one side argues that the opposing candidate may initiate a nuclear holocaust. But in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign, Democrats ― including one prominent party veteran not prone to hyperbole ― are leveling that very charge against Donald Trump.
Bill Bradley, the soft-spoken former New Jersey senator, presidential candidate and New York Knicks basketball great, has come off the political sideline in recent days to warn the country about the threat he believes Trump poses.
In the last week, Bradley announced the creation of a new super PAC, called 52nd Street Fund, that would put hundreds of thousands of dollars into an Ohio-based television ad buy. The ad, which plays off the famed Daisy spot run by Lyndon Johnson against Sen. Barry Goldwater, is ostensibly designed to educate the public about the horrors of nuclear weapons. But the underlying message is that Trump is dangerously misinformed and cavalier about those horrors.
Bradley isn’t mincing words, or messages. The prospect of a President Trump having access to the nuclear codes troubles him in profound ways, he said.
“If Mitt Romney had won, If John McCain had won, I’d feel quite comfortable. I’d trust my life to them. They’re solid citizens,” Bradley said in an interview, referencing the GOP nominees in the two most recent elections. “This guy is in a class of his own.”
Asked point blank if he’d trust Trump with his life, Bradley replied: “I certainly do not”
Bradley is not known for rhetorical flourishes. Nor is he hyper-partisan. Since his 2000 presidential campaign, he’s been an infrequent presence in presidential politics. But he said he was compelled to explore and launch a super PAC a few months ago as he watched the 2016 campaign, which he said had made him “sick in my stomach, quite frankly.”
He was puzzled that the topic of nuclear weapons had received such scant attention, considering Trump’s seeming comfort with, or acceptance of, the prospects of proliferation. It superseded all other issues, including those he was most passionate about (you can’t overturn Citizens United if you’re dealing with nuclear war).
So Bradley decided to force the conversation.
”Nuclear war isn’t a matter of limited war on the other side of the world, like Afghanistan or Iraq. But it could be here and it could take millions of people,” Bradley said. “And I look at Donald Trump and I don’t think he has the ability or experience to defuse a crisis diplomatically before it got to the nuclear level. John Kennedy did that in the 1960s, but Trump is no John Kennedy.”
The Trump campaign declined to respond.
“I believe he is a danger to the country and I believe he is a danger to the country because he doesn’t have the experience to defuse a crisis before it reaches the nuclear level,” Bradley added.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.