Back in the day—i.e., 2016—I always figured there were two big reasons to hope Donald Trump didn’t win the Republican nomination. The first and most important was his straight-up appeal to bigotry and xenophobia, which the other Republican nominees mostly didn’t share. The second was that he might nuke Denmark.
That was the joke, anyway, but it was just shorthand for Trump screwing up some kind of foreign policy emergency, getting himself deeper and deeper into a hole, and then somehow ending up in a war that no one wanted. Nobody thought this was especially likely, but still, it was a 1 percent risk that the other candidates didn’t pose.
Then Trump got elected and three years passed. No war. No real threat of a war, either. Maybe we were all wrong?
Nope. “War,” it turned out, was itself shorthand for an emergency that Trump’s personality would cause him to mismanage. And the emergency turned out to be a pandemic. At first, Trump’s narcissism prevented him from believing that anything could be seriously wrong while he was in charge. Then his xenophobia caused him to address the problem solely by closing off a border, even though no one thought that would work. That eventually morphed into Trump’s bullheadedness preventing him from admitting he was mistaken and changing tack. And that, in turn, has caused him to close yet more borders.
In the meantime, there’s no consistent leadership from the White House. No consistent set of recommendations. No plans for mass testing. No national plans for containment or quarantine. Just experts becoming ever more shrill as the president does nothing and Mitch McConnell shrugs.
So in the end, Trump did nuke Denmark. Metaphorically speaking, that is. But it’s not Denmark that will pay the price, because—again, metaphorically—it’s actually the United States that he’s nuked.