February 6, 2016

Ted Cruz has clearly been watching too many movies on the SyFy Channel and bringing them to the debate.

Either that, or the John Birch Society has some new fears beyond the fluoridation of our water, because Cruz went for the fear factor in his answer to a question about North Korea launching a satellite.

"One of the real risks of this launch, North Korea wants to launch a satellite, and one of the greatest risks of the satellite is they would place a nuclear device in the satellite," Cruz said.

He added, "As it would orbit around the Earth, and as it got over the United States they would detonate that nuclear weapon and set of what’s called an EMP, and electromagnetic pulse which could take down the entire electrical grid on the Eastern seaboard, potentially killing millions."

Except this is just fear mongering nonsense, lifted from old Rick Santorum speeches and conspiracy websites like Alex Jones.

As the Washington Post explains, it's really quite difficult to actually have one of these attacks work, and would take a far more sophisticated weapon than rogue nations like North Korea and Iran might have at their disposal.

So Iran or a terrorist would need a missile capable of delivering a large bomb to a precise point in the sky. As Butt wrote for Space Review in 2010, that's just not feasible. Rogue nations don't have nuclear capabilities of that kind or, according to Butt, the means of delivering them. If such a strike were to happen tomorrow, with a newly-built hydrogen bomb on a new type of missile, whoever launched it would be relying on an awful lot of luck that everything would go right. And it wouldn't take us long to figure out who did it.

Not only that, it's risky and potentially a waste of a perfectly good nuke.

[I]f you want to damage the United States, it's far easier to drop a nuclear bomb in the middle of Manhattan than to detonate it in the atmosphere. "Putting yourself in the mindframe of a terrorist that just wants to cause harm," Butt said, "it doesn't make much sense."

But it does make a nice talking point if you want to mix up your fear mongering a little bit and scare the audience in a different way.

That was the hallmark of Ted Cruz's debate performance for the entire night. Fear, fear, and more fear, served with a side of fear.

Update: It looks as though his worst fears did not materialize. North Korea launched a rocket, and announced they'd placed a satellite in orbit. There appears to be evidence of the rocket, but no EMP attack has materialized as yet.

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