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The persistence of nuclear weapons evokes four critical issues: they continue to pose significant risk in the absence of compelling security needs; they embody technological autonomy and institutional indifference to democratic deliberation; they are represented in mythic and religious presidential rhetoric that hypocritically celebrates American virtue while unproductively demonizing nuclear opponents; and they remain understudied by rhetorical scholars. This essay responds by conceptualizing the challenges posed by nuclear weapons to the ideal of a rhetorical democracy, and historicizes the related role of presidential rhetoric. It concludes with a tentative vision of presidential rhetoric and rhetorical criticism consistent with a nuclear-rhetorical democracy.