LAUTENS: Nuclear war: Why isn’t it a hot-button topic?

Answer, someone: Why is there so little public and official conversation about the possibility of nuclear war?

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un boasts his weapons can be launched at any target in the U.S., and the button is on his desk. President Donald Trump bellows that he has a bigger button, “and it works.”

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Vancouver is 13 minutes by air from Seattle, site of one of the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturers. That should cause a collective shiver here. But thumb-sucking opinion-grinders are far more occupied with real estate prices, strife in Afghanistan, and latest gang murders in Surrey.

And is Ottawa ready? Cabinet meeting imagined: “Um, someone got the Pentagon’s phone number?”

Not by choice, I began kindergarten the week the Second World War began. Quite a lot of history followed. So to me the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 was yesterday. Can’t believe that only people aged 60 or more remember it.

It’s generally agreed that nuclear war between the Soviet bloc and the West never came closer. The world trembled. (I hastened to my girl friend to protect her. Don’t laugh.)

In this most tense moment, John F. Kennedy spoke with breathtakingly clear, firm, but generous grace. Returning the grace, the Soviet Union removed its missiles from Cuba. Fidel Castro was furious.

Peggy Noonan, a columnist with few equals, recalled this and other classic presidential speeches of the century in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Among them: The much underrated Ronald Reagan, snottily scorned by the usual suspects, spoke well and wittily at the U.S.-Soviet signing of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, instrumental in thawing the Cold War. Reagan quoted the Russian proverb Doveryai, no proveryai (trust, but verify). Mikhail Gorbachev – like Reagan, underrated – responded: “You repeat that at every meeting.” Reagan: “I like it.” Laughter.

The human touch. Sense over nonsense. Compare the bozo swagger of Kim and Trump. Peggy Noonan ends her column: “‘Button’ it, Mr. President.”

• • •

Over a wholesome year-end cranberry and melon sarsaparilla at the Red Lion, and after a slap at the undersigned for allegedly faulty arithmetic in counting losses of parking stalls in the Spirit Trail’s 1400-block Argyle, West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith got down to glee about the shakeup at TransLink’s regional Mayors’ Council.

Out with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Lois Hepner, chair and vice-chair respectively. In with Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan as chair and North Vancouver’s Richard Walton replacing Hepner, who didn’t seek re-election.

Metro mayors apparently revolted against the leaders of the two biggest Metro cities after Corrigan accused them of conflicts of interest as beneficiaries of TransLink’s biggest planned projects.

Revenge, best eaten cold? In 2015, in what smacked of a backroom deal, Walton was out and Robertson and Hepner were in, supporting the TransLink plan that regional voters then rejected.

The recent political reversal gladdened Smith, a perennial critic of TransLink for sucking tax money from West Van and spending it on transit elsewhere in the region. His referendum arithmetic was that if West Van captured the average $800 a year homeowners paid to TransLink, plus the per-litre gasoline tax, WV Blue Buses could offer free rides for all.

As my allegedly arithmetic-challenged good self has noted, Smith and Corrigan make, if not quite odd bedfellows, at least congenial sofa-sharers. Corrigan is a New Democrat – pragmatic, not one of the annoying kind. Smith is a businessman. A longtime oil exec at that. They must have had interesting talks about the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Over that fruit drink, or whatever, I asked Smith the routine journalistic question: Will he run in the October election?

Smith, twice acclaimed, credits Corrigan, elected Burnaby mayor five times in a row – impressive records, both – with giving him the sound conventional advice: Never answer that question. Right. Neither a lame duck nor a stimulant of potential rivals be. (Patently coy Gregor Robertson is another story.)

And why does the name of Coun. Mary-Ann Booth for mayor keep coming up? So I asked. She replied: “Yes, I am considering running for mayor, and I’m being encouraged to do so. It’s a great community, and it would be a privilege to serve in any capacity.” Seems the campaigning has already quietly started.

• • •

Durable former West Vancouver councillor and town hall chronicler (and mistake-watcher) Carolanne Reynolds may have inherited some sturdy genes.

Her mother, Ann Reynolds, celebrated – live and in person – her 106th birthday Dec. 29 with a tea party at Inglewood Lodge. Remarkably, Ann has survived two husbands, both of whom were 15 years younger than she.

“Great dancer, great cook, and great joke-teller,” Carolanne recalls of her Mum’s earlier days. Great epitaph, should it ever be necessary.

• • •

Last-minute suggestion: Instead of a nuclear war between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, why not strike an international panel to declare the loser the one with the weirder haircut?

rtlautens@gmail.com

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