The New Republic writer Brian Beutler gave the internet an unpleasant jolt on Wednesday when he tweeted that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was just a few weeks away from being privy to classified government intelligence briefings. "Surely not!" cried some in dismay. "Don’t you mean months, not weeks? And only if he actually wins the general election and actually becomes president of these United States?" Unfortunately for us all, we do not in fact have such time or barriers to block Trump from such sensitive intel.
The general policy is that once the national party conventions are over, the current presidential administration briefs both parties' nominees on intelligence and national security matters. So, yeah, this is gonna happen, and sooner than many of us would like to think. Now that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have been so kind as to move along (okay, the Ohio governor has about another hour of technically being in this), Trump will be briefed on classified intelligence before the summer is over.
This opens up the door to a whole host of presidential privileges which we’d much rather tell ourselves it’s too soon to be thinking about the Donald having. But it's really not.
Granted, based on the current polls, it remains unlikely that Trump will be able to beat Clinton in the general election. In a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday, Clinton beats Trump 54 to 41 percent. However, by no means is the prospect of a Trump presidency off the table. The time has come to stress out not just about Trump gaining access to government intelligence in the lead-up to the presidential election in November, but about all the things Trump would get to do in the not-at-all-far-fetched possibility he becomes president. Just think of it: Trump being granted veto power. Trump being able to draft executive orders. Trump preparing our national budget. Trump being able to nuke Europe. Lest we forget, we’re also potentially facing a Trump selection of our next Supreme Court justice, since poor Merrick Garland looks to be stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of appointments, things are gonna get weird if Trump is elected and starts selecting his cabinet. Ben Carson has already declared himself to be working for Trump in “an advisory capacity,” so we could be seeing lots more of him. And as much as I enjoy Carson's strangely lyrical fruit salad metaphors (and hope they keep on coming), the prospect of Secretary of Defense Carson terrifies me.
I for one am really, really, not looking forward to finding out how Trump would respond in the event of a terrorist attack. And as recently as this morning, Trump said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he would stand behind his ban on Muslims if he won the general election, insisting that we have to be “very vigilant, we have to find out what the hell’s going on.”
As a comforting aside, though, Trump also did say in the interview that when it came to launching nukes, “Let me tell you, I have the slowest trigger there is." However, he proceeded to pretty much ruin my brief sigh of relief when he added, "but I’ll prepare ... because we’re not even prepared." That ominous emphasis on "prepare" made me think Trump meant more than being Boy Scout ready. There's also the problem that Trump doesn't seem to have the most, shall we say, coherent foreign policy — or even the skill to reliably name the countries to which he's referring.
Here's to hoping Trump sticks to his "slow trigger." At the very least, let's hope he gets his targets right.