Younger people today are fortunate that they grew up in a post-Cold War era, where the fear of a nuclear war has been lifted. So it is despicable when politicians try to re-create the fears of that era by using one of the worst fear mongering tactics, and that is to scare people about the possible use of a nuclear device in a populated area. Cynical politicians use that to justify any and all abuses of the violation of people’s civil rights and privacy, by arguing that if they are not allowed to do what they want, this awful scenario may well be the consequence.
It is an old tactic. Lyndon Johnson did this with his ‘daisy chain’ ad against Barry Goldwater. But that was during the Cold War when nuclear threats were more real. More recently George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleeza Rice issued their infamous warnings about mushroom clouds in order to scare people into supporting the illegal war against Iraq.
President Obama had refrained from exploiting this trope but as we have seen before, when he feels his authority and judgment are being questioned, he becomes petulant and says things that are better left unsaid and now he too has resorted to that same odious tactic.
During a news conference in the Europe, Obama said he’s far more worried about the possibility of a nuclear weapon exploding in New York City than he is about the threat posed by Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
In this case, the nuclear nightmare was being used to deflect calls that he wasn’t doing enough about Russia and Ukraine, in an effort to lower the heated rhetoric he himself had used earlier about Crimea. But it is a shameful tactic and he should not have stooped to that level.