Who gets the nuclear football in November?
As the US presidential election draws ever nearer there has been fierce debate from both sides on a range of issues. It has sometimes had the feel of a conflict of views that has threatened to bubble over in to outright warfare but fortunately it hasn’t quite come to that yet.
After a box office primary season which saw the outspoken billionaire Donald Trump eviscerate the political establishment and veteran socialist Senator Bernie Sanders come agonisingly close to winning an unprecedented nomination from The Democrats most are welcoming a calm in the storm as both campaigns begin to settle in to their key messages.
Although most polls are pointing to Hillary Clinton winning by a comfortable margin there are those that are still highly concerned that Trump may get his hands on the nuclear codes. In a speech in San Diego recently, Clinton asked: “Do we want his [Donald Trump’s] finger anywhere near the button?”
Much has been written and discussed about the ‘codes’ but what are they in reality? Every US president since John F Kennedy has been equipped with a nuclear biscuit and a nuclear football. It’s what the US president does with them that decide whether the rest of us should plan for tea or Armageddon. The so-called nuclear biscuit is a credit-card-sized piece of plastic containing the codes the president needs to order the launch nuclear weapons. The president is supposed to carry the biscuit at all times, though there are reports that in the 1970s Jimmy Carter inadvertently lost his when a suit was sent to the dry cleaners.
As for the nuclear football, it comes into active service when the president leaves the White House. It is the nickname for a large leather, aluminium-framed briefcase which is hefted by a military aide who shadows the US commander in chief.
There you have it then, the codes that could lead to the end of days are actually written on a credit card or carried around in a briefcase and according to some have actually been lost on more than one occasion. Whatever happens in November let’s all hope that the new president never needs them and keeps them safe.