Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 27, 2018
Asked about last week’s devastating governmental climate assessment, President Donald Trump said, “I want to look at who drew it — you know, which group drew it.”
In other words, were these scientists who were not willing to mold their opinions to match his own?
Remember, this was a report from 13 government agencies — people already supposedly “in line” with the White House messaging, that found that the effects of climate change are hastening, and that without substantial environmental action in response, will begin to have significant effects on the American economy as well as its health.
It’s the same kind of criticism that we heard in the president’s spat with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who criticized Trump’s desire to single out “Obama judges” for court judgments against his White House proposals. Indeed, the judge in the specific case that Trump had highlighted was his own appointee.
In this regard, it also mirror’s Trump’s divergence from the findings of his own CIA investigation into the Saudi-ordered assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. What mattered was whether the findings were in line with Trump’s personal view, not whether they are true.
The president put on another campaign rally, heralding himself and the economy. But the much-touted Trump economy seems to be showing some cracks, including the announcement yesterday by General Motors that it was laying off 15% of its salaried workforce, some 15,000 workers, as a result of dwindling sales of sedans, even as GM plans for more electric cars.
In each case, we’re seeing a president who disdains truth-telling, fact-finding or any other form of verification to guide his thinking about policies and positions for the country. In combination with the president’s evident lack of interest in the mechanics of governing a complex nation through issues that are legitimately complicated, it is easy to see the inadequacies of the Trump presidency towards real problem-solving.
Instead, we have a series of slogans and personal insistence that certain things are “true” or true-enough to hold as policy.
Even if he once said it, all that seems to matter to the president is what he is saying at the moment.
As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne said, “The past week has shown that those who feared Trump’s despotic inclinations were neither deluded nor alarmist.” Dionne added, “The syndrome we most need to worry about is denial — a blind refusal to face up to how much damage Trump is willing to inflict on our system of self-rule, and on our values.”
So, what we see daily is a world as translated by the Trump White House. In that world, the refugees at the border are hardened gang members and criminals, not families with children who are being tear-gassed. In that world, thousands of acres of wildfires are caused by a lack of forest raking rather than systemic drought and drying from climate change (Breitbart quoted anti-climate change scientistsdecrying the report). In that world, the Saudi Crown Prince maybe didn’t have anything to say about rogue elements who usually take orders from him going their own way to kill a journalist with uncomfortable ideas. In that world, Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email for government work is okay because it wasn’t Hillary Clinton using a personal email server for government work.
Either our president is clueless about the real world or he is manipulative and insistent on his gut, or on his family’s pocketbook. Either way, it’s a bad result for the rest of us. Worse, from my point of view, is that the president regularly ignores those around him who are supposed to collect the facts and advise him about avoiding legal, ethical, moral and leadership potholes.
The problems we face in the world are not pretend. Russia and Ukraine are shooting at each other. The Middle East is a powder keg. North Korea is still developing nuclear weapons and missiles. The unresolved China trade issues are threatening business planning and the stock market. Millions are losing health care, bridges are failing, opioid deaths may be peaking but continue. Racial and hate crimes are rising.
We need clear thinking in the government, not just bromides about what might work.
We should be able to agree on the effects of a unpaid-for tax cut and big increases in military spending have had on increasing the national debt, for example. If our own government is heightening its warnings about environmental chaos, perhaps promoting the use of coal even when the marketplace has largely turned away from it as a main fuel might not be the best policy. If immigration problems continue to grow, let’s not stick our heads in the sand; let’s set out to determine what is actually happening and build from there, wall or not. Threats to close the entire border, affecting trade and manufacturing supply line routes as well as dampening illegal immigration, are simply not effective. Talking up military parades is at odds with offering a balanced diplomatic, economic and defensive set of policies that promote peace and prosperity.
It is hard to have total faith in the election of a Democratic House that seems almost as scattershot as the Republican House. But it might be a good tool towards organizing a review of what is passing as truth.