President Donald Trump’s comment Tuesday that he has “a much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than North Korea’s leader drew strong criticism from political foes and foreign policy experts in Maine.

“For goodness sakes, that’s just nuts,” Democratic congressional hopeful Lucas St. Clair said. “The risks of an accidental escalation with North Korea are too high for this. It’s dangerous and inappropriate.”

Another 2nd District candidate, Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston, said that “by making these kinds of threats about nuclear war on Twitter, he shows that he either doesn’t understand his responsibilities as commander in chief or doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions.”

After months of ratcheting up the rhetoric, Trump took to social media after North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, told his nation that the nuclear button is on his desk always.

Trump responded to his nemesis by asking, “will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

James Richter, a Bates College professor of international politics, said that by “rattling the nuclear saber,” the North Korea leader “loses no credibility abroad, as he has none, and allows his domestic population to think he is a powerful man. It’s an irresponsible strategy, but it is not crazy.”

“Trump, too, may please his base with such reckless rhetoric, but it does great damage to the United States’ reputation among its many allies and trade partners, and ultimately will diminish U.S. influence in the world,” Richter said. “It’s a losing strategy, if it is a strategy at all.”

William d’Ambruoso, a visiting professor with an expertise in international security, called the notion of nuclear superiority “a nonsensical concept.”

D’Ambruoso recalled the late astronomer Carl Sagan “compared it to two enemies standing in a room of gasoline arguing about who had more matches.”

“The plain fact is that there is no political goal for either side that is worth the risk of nuclear retaliation — and there is certainly risk for both sides, despite Trump’s implication that North Korea’s nuclear button doesn’t work,” he said.

“In fact, if Kim takes seriously Trump’s negative assessment of North Korea’s capabilities, Pyongyang might decide that it must prove its capabilities with an above-ground, missile-launched nuclear test, “ d’Ambruoso said, something the U.S. would find “highly provocative.”

“My bet is that deterrence will hold, despite all the noise,” d’Ambruoso said. “But at this point, if Mr. Trump ends up starting a nuclear war out of pettiness, immaturity, insecurity, and/or hyper-masculine chest-thumping, it will be impossible to say that we didn’t see it coming.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein said late Tuesday that “President Trump is literally inciting nuclear war tonight. This must be called what it is: a clear and present danger to humankind itself.”

“We need to impeach and remove him from office immediately,” Ringelstein said.

Craig Olson, a Democrat seeking Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat, said Trump’s “war of words” with North Korea is sophomoric.

During a recent trip to Japan, he said, people asked him repeatedly what he thought of Trump’s public feud with Kim. He told them that “to stoop to a level of negotiation based on 144 characters and name calling has created a game of chicken with nuclear arms that creates an unsettled environment for millions.”

“This is not how America negotiates. This is not how honorable leaders work through their differences. We all deserve better,” Olson said.

Republican U.S. Senate contender Eric Brakey, a state senator from Auburn, said, “Discussion of war of any kind should never be taken lightly; I am hopeful diplomatic pathways can settle the situation with North Korea.”

Tiffany Bond, an independent U.S. House candidate in Maine’s 2nd District, said that “effective governing does not include threats of nuclear war on social media.”
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday that said Trump’s “juvenile and reckless statements about North Korea put our national security at risk.”
Pingree said Americans should not live in fear that Trump’s “irrational behavior will put their future in danger.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican in the 2nd District, didn’t address Trump’s tweet directly.

Instead, he said, “Our top priority should always be to keep Mainers and Americans safe. There remain opportunities to resolve this situation diplomatically, and I believe we should continue to pursue those options.

“To date, these efforts have not been successful. It should be clear that our armed forces stand ready to defend America. I’m hopeful diplomatic discussions can continue, but history demands we stand prepared,” Poliquin said.

The GOP lawmaker said that military “strength and readiness” and the country’s wide-ranging nuclear capabilities “have served as deterrents to aggression against the United States and peaceful countries around globe” for decades. “It’s important that America and our allies remain vigilant in a dangerous world,” Poliquin added.

Scott Ogden, spokesman for the Maine Democratic Party, said, “The American people would be better served, and safer, if the president stopped tweeting. We hope Republican leaders across Maine will condemn this reckless statement.”

“This is not funny,” Democratic congressional candidate Jonathan Fulford said. “There is no small nuclear war next door to China. It is irresponsible, and a failure in leadership and judgment to risk the lives of hundreds of millions, including our soldiers and our country, with a tweet.”

Ben Pollard, a Democratic U.S. Senate contender, said the “hostile and inflammatory rhetoric emanating from the White House is the exact opposite of what is needed to address the crisis in North Korea and progress toward a diplomatic solution.”

“There are no winners in nuclear war, only devastation of innocent civilians, and our government should never threaten to use this horrific technology,” Pollard said.

“In fact, what is needed to move toward diffusion of tension in the region is a renewed commitment to nuclear disarmament by the United States so that we may lead the world toward the elimination of nuclear weapons,” Pollard said.

Golden, a combat veteran, pointed out that Trump “has never spent a day in uniform.”

He said the president “has no greater responsibility than the decision to go to war and it should be hard thought, gut-wrenching, and borne out of necessity.”

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President Donald Trump’s Tuesday tweet about North Korea.