The Jolt: Post-Trump, we need stronger guardrails on the nuclear trigger, says Sam Nunn

Donald Trump’s four years as president has tested nearly every norm Washington has to offer. When he hasn’t broken them, he’s underlined some glaring weaknesses.

One of the more disturbing hallmarks of Trump’s tenure has been his inclination to keep leaders of Congress in the dark on crucial military actions – for instance, last January’s drone assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani at an Iraqi airport.

Sam Nunn and Ernest Moniz, co-chairs of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, have a new piece in Foreign Affairs magazine that carries this title: “Sleepwalking Toward the Nuclear Precipice.”

Nunn is a former Georgia senator. Moniz was secretary of energy in the Obama administration.

The pair has some advice for President-elect Joe Biden. They do not mention Trump by name, but argue that perhaps the use of nuclear weapons is too dreadful a decision to be placed in the hands of a single individual – i.e., a U.S. president -- without stronger guardrails. A taste:

Biden should sign a directive creating a new process for the use of nuclear weapons. The directive should stipulate that any decision to use nuclear force—either first use or self-defense when the decision-making timetable allows—should involve consultations with specified senior executive branch policy and legal officials as well as with the leaders of both parties in Congress.

These new procedures could be reinforced through legislation. While drafting such a law, Congress could conduct a careful review of the severe erosion of its constitutional responsibility to declare war—and investigate how the War Powers Act has practically ceased to function and might be remedied.


On Monday, U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler upped their attacks on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger by demanding he release a list of voters who have registered since Nov. 3.

On Tuesday, the Republican’s office fired back with a scorcher.

“As embarrassing as it is for Sens. Perdue and Loeffler not to know that the data they want is already publicly available from the Secretary of State, it’s even worse that they’re not aware their own campaigns already have the data they’re looking for,” Raffensperger said.

Voter files are updated daily and are available for purchase for $250 from the state. It’s been long-standing practice for campaigns, outside groups and others to purchase the data to target potential voters. The National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed to Raffensperger’s office that it has the data.

“Early voting has already started but it’s not too late for them to call their offices and get their campaigns in order,” he said.

The NRSC’s Nate Brand said his office still hasn’t provide a “complete” list of the new registered voters, which Raffensperger’s office said it won’t do because counties are continuing to add validly-registered voters who signed up by the Dec. 7 deadline. Still, Brand said the refusal shows Raffensperger’s “incompetence.”

“With three weeks to go before Election Day and early vote already underway, the fact he’s unwilling to answer that question definitively gives credence to the calls that he’s incapable of handling this important role,” he said.


After casting her early vote in the Jan. 5 runoffs, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler this morning refused to acknowledge Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential contest, and also said she hasn’t decided yet whether she will object to Biden’s electors on Jan. 6 in Congress. “I haven’t looked at it,” she said. “Jan. 6 is a long way out and there’s a lot to play out between now and then.”


The Republican trio who govern the state Capitol are willing to edge closer to reality, though not by much. Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan this morning issued a statement calling for fellow Republicans to concentrate on the two Jan. 5 runoffs for U.S. Senate, and a statewide runoff for a seat on the Public Service Commission.

The trio make no mention of Trump’s loss, but do call David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler “the firewall against the destruction of the Trump agenda.”


Why the continued hesitation? Because the Trump base isn’t all that concerned about reality. The Twitter message from congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene on Wednesday:

Every “Republican" that isn't fighting for @realDonaldTrump's 2020 landslide victory is supporting the Chinese Communist Party takeover of America.

Greene says she will band with other conservatives in the House in hopes of blocking the ratification of the electoral college vote next month. Meanwhile, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell -- who acknowledged Biden’s victory on Tuesday -- has warned Republicans in his chamber there is no appetite for such shenanigans.


But speaking of China: The Huffington Post reports that U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is out with a new biographical campaign video that looks very much like the 2014 version, save for two things – there’s no mention of his time in Hong Kong, working for Sara Lee. And a photo of Perdue and his wife on the Great Wall of China has vanished.

Such things become inconvenient when one is accusing Jon Ossoff of working “directly for the Chinese Communist Party in China.” And no, Ossoff didn’t.


U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, has become the fourth member of Georgia’s congressional delegation to test positive for the coronavirus. He’s reporting “mild” symptoms.


You’ve seen how often the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s TV ads have featured his pet beagle.

Now has broken down the political science behind it. It’s all about countering GOP attacks that Warnock is a “radical” and inoculating the Black Democrat from racially tinged assaults.

Via Twitter, Hakeem Jefferson, a Stanford professor and FiveThirtyEight contributor, said this: “This ad is doing a lot. It’s obv[iously] cute, but it is also meant to deracialize Warnock with this cute ‘white people friendly’ doggy.”

Fordham University political scientist and MSNBC contributor Christina Greer similarly tweeted, “This ad will be taught in Race Politics classes for years to come…it is doing A LOT of silent heavy lifting.”

FiveThirtyEight, which is at bottom a stats website, reports that white people are more likely to own a pet than Black people, notes racial differences when it comes to dog breeds.

Beagles appear to fit squarely among the adored and approachable dog breeds that Americans generally associate with white owners.

As Jefferson also noted on Twitter, Warnock’s beagle can be thought of as trying to communicate a specific “white-friendly” message to voters, something like”How can I be the scary (Black) guy she’s depicting?”


Just in time for Georgia’s runoffs, Facebook is making an exception to its ban and allowing the four U.S. Senate campaigns and their allies to run political ads — and allow the social media giant to get a cut of the more than $440 million already spent on advertising since Nov. 3.

Both parties complained of the ad ban, with Democrats criticizing the social media giant for complicating its efforts to push back against viral misinformation and Republicans urging a reversal to help the campaigns better target GOP voters.

“In recent weeks we’ve heard feedback from experts and advertisers across the political spectrum about the importance of expressing voice and using our tools to reach voters ahead of Georgia’s runoff elections,” wrote Facebook product manager Sarah Schiff. “We agree that our ad tools are an important way for people to get information about these elections.”


Over at InsiderAdvantage, UGA political scientist Chuck Bulloch has done some of the math we’ve done on Donald Trump’s Nov. 3 not-so-great performance in Georgia -- and more, besides. A taste:

The most successful Republican, Jason Shaw competing for Public Service Commission District 1, got 50.11%. Two of the candidates competing in the January runoff, Perdue and PSC District 4 incumbent Lauren “Bubba" McDonald, attracted 49.73 and 49.91%, respectively. Had Trump's vote share equaled that of any of these three Republicans, he would gotten Georgia's Electoral College vote.

Not only did Trump trail the other Republicans competing against a Democrat and a Libertarian, he got a smaller share of the vote than the combined vote for Republicans competing in the Senate special election. The six Republicans, led by Kelly Loeffler, secured 49.37% of the vote.