On Wednesday, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was a guest on radio show host Hugh Hewitt’s show, and broke up laughing, barely able to stop himself, at remarks made by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) showing her vast grasp of nuclear weaponry which she referred to as “tactile” nuclear weapons, apparently feeling they’re dangerous because they’re something you can reach out and touch.
Hewitt played a clip of Gillibrand speaking at a townhall in Dover, New Hampshire, in which she repeatedly referred to “tactile” nuclear weapons, which caused Bolton to lose it. The exchange went like this:
Hewitt: Last question, Ambassador Bolton. The presidential campaign is underway. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ventured into strategic matters at a town hall in Dover. Let me play you a 40 second cut of what she had to say and ask the follow up question. Cut number 17:
Gillibrand can be heard saying, “When you say you want to develop low-yield nuclear weapons that are tactile, what you’re saying is you want to use them. Now the military will make an argument to say oh, this is just again to make, we have to have an equal threat. And this, if it’s usable, then it’s a better threat. I just found that is not believable. I just, I, they’re trying to create nuclear weapons that are usable. So I opposed the entire Defense bill because of that one provision. So if I am president, I am going to make sure we unwind that completely, and I don’t think we should be trying to create tactile nuclear weapons.”
Hewitt continued, “So the…”
Bolton, laughing, “Tactile nuclear weapons?”
Hewitt: Well, I was unfamiliar with the concept, Mr. Ambassador.
Bolton can’t stop laughing.
Hewitt: What are you up to?
Blton, laughing, “I have to say, I was unfamiliar with it as well. I wonder what Senator Gillibrand knows that I don’t.”
Hewitt: Oh, they are very worried.
Bolton is still laughing.
Hewitt: I’ve been studying this stuff with, since President Nixon was in retirement in San Clemente. First time I’ve heard of tactile nuclear weapons. So what, is something going on at Andrew Marshall’s old office at the Pentagon we don’t know about?
Bolton: (laughing) Well, you know, Hugh, as national security advisor, I don’t get involved in politics. But I’ll just say maybe Senator Gillibrand could give me a call and tell me what she knows about those tactile nuclear weapons. I’d be interested in learning it. (laughing)
Just to edify Gillibrand, there are such weapons known as "tactical" nuclear weapons, although former Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated there was no such thing, asserting, "I don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘tactical nuclear weapon.’ Any nuclear weapon used any time is a strategic game-changer."
In February 2018, championing a low-yield nuclear warhead for America’s sea-launched ballistic missiles and a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile, Mattis said, "We don’t want someone else to miscalculate and think that because they are going to use a low-yield weapon, somehow we would confront what [former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger] calls ‘surrender or suicide.' We do not want even an inch of daylight to appear in how we look at the nuclear deterrent. It is a nuclear deterrent, and must be considered credible.”