Like any good student with a sensitive question, Harold Hering approached his teacher after class, out of earshot from his classmates.
“How can I know,” he asked, “that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?”
It was 1973. President Richard M. Nixon was seriously depressed about Watergate. Hering, an Air Force major who rescued downed pilots in Vietnam, was training to be a missileer — the guy who turns the keys to commence nuclear Armageddon.
“I assumed there had to be some sort of checks and balances so that one man couldn’t just on a whim order the launch of nuclear weapons,” Hering, now 81, told Radiolab in a remarkable interview earlier this year.
Hering was wrong. And decades later, so is anyone who thinks President Trump, having recently threatened “fire and fury” for North Korea, can’t order a nuclear attack anytime he darn well pleases, even from a fairway bunker on the golf course.