Man at His Best

A Former Lieutenant General Explains Why He Trusts Trump With Nuclear Codes

"He understands the power of nuclear weapons. He understands that if you walk down that path, it's a terrible path and you can't come back off it. He appreciates that."

BY JACK HOLMES | Sep 28, 2016 | Culture

The bloodbath spilled out from the debate stage last night. As Donald Trump's surrogates—and, eventually, the freshly juiced tangerine himself—made their way into what's called the "spin room" after the main event, you feared for them. Advisor Jason Miller, for instance, was surrounded by a ferocious pack of reporters two or three deep. He struggled, mightily, to explain how Trump really was always against the Iraq War. (He wasn't.) When asked repeatedly if Trump has paid federal income taxes over the last few years, Miller could only muster that he "pays taxes.”

You might almost feel bad for them. Then again, they knew what they were signing up for.

One of those who signed up was General Joseph "Keith" Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general. The Daily Beast describes him as "among the first U.S. personnel sent in to try and govern Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein" in November of 2003. At the time he worked for Oracle, a defence contractor, but now he works for Trump as a foreign policy advisor. It's an unusual pairing, especially since Hillary Clinton has commanded far stronger support from military and intelligence leaders this cycle.

I asked Kellogg if he really thought that Trump was ready for the job.

"Absolutely; I wouldn't be with him if I wasn't confident," Kellogg said.

"If you look at the way he asks questions of people like us, when he talks to them—a lot of people ask questions dead centre of a piece of paper. He asks edge questions, and it makes you sit back and think. That means he's learning, he's developing, he's going along, and he wants to learn...When he asks the questions, he listens. The first time I met him was a 90-minute meeting. He talked for 10 minutes, we talked for 80."

Kellogg's not the first Trump surrogate to claim that, contrary to every public appearance he's ever made, the man is in fact a great listener and endlessly curious in private. "I think he's got great judgment, he's got great temperament," Kellogg added.

A lot of people ask questions dead centre of a piece of paper. He asks edge questions, and it makes you sit back and think.
 

(The Daily Beast credits Kellogg with overseeing the "disbanding of the Iraqi army, a move that is widely seen as helping to fuel an insurgency that later threatened to plunge the country into a civil war.")

What about this whole nuclear weapons thing, though? Does Trump have a handle on that now?

"He understands the power of nuclear weapons," said Kellogg. "He understands that if you walk down that path, it's a terrible path and you can't come back off it. He appreciates that."

But what about when he said Japan should get themselves some nukes, and didn't seem to be aware of the U.S. policy on nuclear non-proliferation?

"People have to step back and be realistic about this," Kellogg said. "We have nations now that have become nuclear powers where we don't like it at all. The North Koreans have now, since the Democratic administration, have exploded four nuclear devices. They've only had five in the history of their country."

So how would the Trump administration's policy differ?

"Well I think you have to start looking at pressuring the Chinese, and I think you can do that through economics. Because they're the ones who have control over North Korea—they really are. And I think the other thing you can tell the North Koreans—we do have a bilateral treaty with South Korea, and we basically said in the treaty, if you read it, that an attack on South Korea is an attack on us. Doesn't say that specifically, but it does tell them there's a line you can't cross. And you better understand that."

Sounds about right.

From: Esquire US.