There have been not only one, not only two, but three credible climate change reports issued in just the past week. And the President seems to repudiate them all. He told The Washington Post, “I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” Journalist Greg Dobbs, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor, has covered several presidents and in this Boomer Opinion piece, Dobbs says he never has seen one who so readily rejects the advice of experts.
Science is, well, science. It is the calculated, conscientious, chronicled study of a subject.
You don’t either “believe” or “not believe” science. Science just is.
That’s why we don’t say we “believe” that airplanes can fly. The Wright Brothers figured that out for us.
We don’t say we “believe” that the chemical compound in dynamite will explode. Alfred Nobel took care of that.
We don’t say we “believe” in gravity. Isaac Newton believed in it, then proved it.
But while presumably President Donald Trump accepts the science that explains why airplanes fly and dynamite explodes and objects fall to the ground, evidently he has a problem with science that explains why the climate is changing for the worse.
Which leads him to say, “I don’t believe it.”
That is, in fact, Donald Trump’s rote response to virtually every statement of fact that doesn’t match his own personal, or political, view of the world. Or, as he told The Washington Post this past week about mankind causing climate change, “I don’t see it.”
So when more than 300 scientists from thirteen federal agencies wrote their “Fourth National Climate Assessment,” warning that climate change can have catastrophic consequences on our economy and on our health — which Trump’s administration did its best to bury by releasing it on the day after Thanksgiving — how did the president disdainfully dismiss it?
“I don’t believe it.” Or, “I don’t see it.” As if Donald Trump — developer/casino magnate/reality TV star/President — has so much experience with climate science that he knows more than educated experts, who issued their findings despite the fact that it’s Trump’s presidential portrait they have to abide on their office walls.
Actually, Trump did say more about the government’s climate change report that runs tens of thousands of words: “I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine.” Which led him to pledge not to reduce emissions in the U.S. because “if we’re clean, but every other place on earth is dirty, that’s not so good.”
It’s not??? To quote you, Mr. President, I don’t believe it.
A week earlier of course, the president didn’t embrace the assessment of the CIA — based on established intelligence and material evidence — that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince personally ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump’s own finding on this fatal fiasco, as if his careers as developer/casino magnate/reality TV star/President give him intelligence insights that the CIA does not possess? “You can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.”
In essence, “I don’t see it, I don’t believe it.”
We shouldn’t be surprised. Remember during the campaign, when the man who sidestepped military service because of bone spurs in his heels said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” Or just a month ago, when he responded to the report by journalist Bob Woodward that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — a four-star Marine general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO before he went to work for Trump — had to explain to the president, who has been so critical of NATO, that NATO is critical to preventing World War III: “I think I know more about it than he does.”
Translation: I don’t see it. I don’t believe it.
Think back in fact to 2017, Inauguration Day-plus-one, which gave us a glimpse of our future with this fact-free president: he crossed the Potomac to CIA headquarters, his first official appearance, to honor the sacrifices of intelligence officers killed in the line of duty.
Or am I giving the man too much credit?
Soon he seemed to forget why he was there, because he quickly pivoted to “the media … among the most dishonest people on earth.” And from there, to his own “alternative facts” (credit aide Kellyanne Conway for that one) about the crowds on the National Mall at his inauguration. “We had a massive field of people,” Trump told CIA agents who thought they were there to honor their fallen confederates. “You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people.”
Oh our lying eyes.
Actual photographs — perish the thought that anyone should rely on facts — clearly showed that the crowds at President Obama’s inaugurations had been bigger than Trump’s. And that during Trump’s ceremony, there was a lot of empty space.
So what did Trump do? In a variation of the theme “I don’t believe it,” the new president — before setting out for the CIA — reportedly personally phoned the acting director of the National Park Service, which controls the Mall, and the next thing you knew, a government photographer had cropped out the empty spaces from the day before and put the altered pictures online.
Believe it or not.
The point is, whether it’s about climate change or the CIA or the wisdom of battle-hardened officers or just the size of the crowds come to idolize him, Donald Trump only sees what he wants to see, and he only believes what he wants to believe, actual facts and prevailing expertise be damned.
This helps explain why he’s so big on his tax cuts, which were sold on the promise of lifting our economy but instead have lifted the nation’s deficit to $779 billion, the worst it has been since the government bailed out key industries during the recession. In Trump’s first two years, in fact, the national debt also has risen, by roughly $2 trillion. For which we’ll all pay in the years to come.
But is the president making major moves to cut those losses? Just look at his tweet after the tear gas on Thanksgiving weekend in Tijuana chased away asylum seekers from that dreaded caravan: “Congress, fund the WALL!” The Department of Homeland Security says the bill will come to more than $20 billion. Other estimates say the true cost is triple that amount.
Deficit? Debt? “I don’t believe it.”
This guy’s running our government. This guy’s changing our lives. On the basis of hard facts and sound counsel, like virtually every other president in modern times? Maybe. But only if he sees it and believes it.
Otherwise, he goes with his gut. And we’re the ones who get sick.