Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Pessimal Presidency of Donald Trump

Its official, Trump is the worst US president in history. It is almost impossible to keep up with Trump's misdeeds, he is ending safeguards that protect Americans, he is dismantling government agencies and departments, and he is gutting government supported science. There are also 1001 small cuts that end government oversight and erode transparency.

Trump's presidency has been a nightmare of Orwellian proportions. We still have many months to go before he is impeached. If Democrats fail to take control in the midterm election, those months could stretch into years.

Trump has earned his place as the worst president in US history. Trump is widely seen as ignorant, corrupt, erratic and morally bankrupt and now we can add human rights violator to his list of malfeasance.

Republican insiders tried to warn us about Trump's incompetence before the election of 2016. Just in time for Presidents' Day, this warning was vindicated by the announcement that he is the worst President ever. On February 19th, a New York Times opinion piece cited a poll of political experts, that ranked Donald Trump as the worst president in 242 years of American history.

The survey was completed by 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section. It was conducted by Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, and Justin S. Vaughn, an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University.

With all the scorn and blame that Trump has tried to heap on his predessor President Barack Obama, it is no small irony that the experts ranked Obama as the eighth greatest president while Trump is at the very bottom of the list. What makes this even more striking is the fact that it is not just Democrats who have a dim view of the Trump presidency Republicans also rank Trump near the very bottom.

On February 22 Donald Trump earned another ignominious distinction.  As explained by the head of Amnesty International, Trump is a human rights violator. Trump's politics are "hateful", they  mark "a new era of human rights regression" and they are a threat to everyone. These comments came from Salil Sheety who was in Washington to release the human rights group's annual report. According to Amnesty's report, Trump is in league with despots like Russian president Vladimir Putin and Philipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte.

Sheety put Trump at the forefront of governments that practice the politics of hatred and fear. The report singles out Trump's track record of disrespecting women, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. It also points to his anti-immigrant legislative agenda.

Future generations will most surely despise Trump for his failure to act on climate change. To compound matters, Trump has been a forthright champion of fossil fuels while opposing renewables and efficiency.

Trump's own government scientists have put forward a slew of findings that support the veracity of climate change and expose the wrong-mindedness of his administration's climate denial.  Trump's policy positions, particularly those related to climate change, are at odds with the facts and on the wrong side of history.

It is one thing to make poor decisions it is quite another to intentionally eliminate resources that help you to make informed decisions. This is precisely what Trump is doing, he is at war with scientists in his own government.

The Trump administration is undermining or eradicating science programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior.  This government appears particularly interested in ending science on climate change.

Any mention of the anthropogenic origins of climate change in the federal government is being scrubbed. Both the Interior Department and the EPA are reviewing and/or abolishing advisory boards. Even worse, a dozen members of one of the EPA's key scientific review boards have been replaced with industry hacks.

The evidence coming from within government squarely contradicts the Trump administration stated policy ambitions. One of the best examples is the National Climate Assessment. NCA is a group that helps American lawmakers to understand science so that they can make informed policy decisions. Successive NCA reports have concluded that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming.

Leaked drafts of the 2018 National Climate Assessment reiterate the conclusions of thousands of other studies include the finding that the past few decades have been the warmest in more than 1,500 ears and sea levels have risen more than 8 inches since 1880.

The release of the NCA draft report was preceded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which found that we are seeing record levels of GHGs, heat, sea ice melt, and sea level rise.

In August 2017 the Trump administration disbanded the NCA advisory panel. This led Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to describe the move as,"an example of the president not leading, and the president stepping away from reality."

The next NCA report was due in 2018. It would appear that Trump wants to avoid the embarrassment of more policy recommendations based on yet another federal government document that flatly contradicts his administration's climate denial.

Richard Moss, an adjunct professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences, explained why this is a bad idea. "We’re going to be running huge risks here and possibly end up hurting the next generation’s economic prospects," Moss said.

Enacting policy that flouts scientific evidence has serious consequences. Trump is willfully oblivious, his most recent budget fails to invest a penny in climate resilient infrastructure. Despite the evidence, the Trump administration has consistently opposed climate mitigation and adaptation efforts including smart building. Last summer Trump signed an executive order that reverses a federal requirement that sea level rise be taken into account on coastal floodplains. This defies common-sense.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Trump administration has been shutting down scientists and government advisory boards to conceal the facts. This makes it easier for Trump to support policy positions that are harmful to the nation. How else can you explain that Trump still does not have a science advisor, nor does he appear to want one.

Not having to contend with facts makes it easier for Trump to reverse sound policies of his predessor like the Clean Power Plan. Liz Perera, the climate policy director at the Sierra Club, claims she knows why the Trump administration is so virulently opposed to science and forward-thinking energy policies

"We already knew Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt reject science, but this smearing of the Clean Power Plan’s massive public benefits shows they reject basic math, too," Perera, told The Hill. "The Trump administration’s assault on the Clean Power Plan is about one thing and one thing only: helping corporate polluters profit."

It would be a mistake to think that by being disconnected from reality Trump can do no harm. His propensity to push back against the facts and promote fake news makes him even more dangerous. Sustainability is unstoppable but it is not impervious to Trump. Nor are the institutions of America's democracy safe from a president who is hell-bent on tearing them down.

Despite all that Trump has already done it will get worse the longer he holds on to power. US institutions including the institution of the presidency will suffer what may prove to be irreversible consequences.

"Beyond his reputation or ranking, Donald Trump’s very presidency may alter perceptions of presidential legacies as his unique approach to the office continues to surprise," Rottinghaus and Vaughn were quoted as saying.

Trump will live in infamy for systematically dismantling environmental protection and climate action. His egregious legacy will include climate denial which sentences humanity to an apocalyptic future.

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