Saturday, September 7, 2019

Trump's Dorian SNAFU Reaffirms his Disdain for Science

Image credit: AXIOS
American President Donald Trump's Hurricane Dorian SNAFU has once again demonstrated his contempt for science and his apparent incapacity to tell the truth. There are a host of dangerous implications associated with a president who eschews facts. This includes undermining scientific bodies within government. Trump has made no secret of his disdain for science and his administration has gone after scientists who refute his ignorance.

Trump tried to bury the second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) conducted by the US Global Change Research Program. When that did not work he and his administration publicly refuted their findings. His rejection of the NCA was a deliberate attempt to minimize the embarrassment of his administration's climate denial.

Most recently the president seems to have pressured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to disavow a correction from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham, Alabama. Trump attacked the NWS because they pointed out his ignorance about the track of Hurricane Dorian. The president incorrectly said the hurricane was poised to hit Alabama, when the National Weather Service corrected the president he doubled down and pushed NOAA to back up his SNAFU.

NWS said "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama." This was followed by Trump telling reporters, "Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that". He then continued to post multiple tweets supporting the veracity of his misapprehension.

In response to NOAA's statements defending the president, Dan Sobien, the president of the NWS tweeted: "Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight"

Trump's comportment compromises the weather service's ability to keep Americans safe by undermining the perceived accuracy of their reporting of storm tracks. However, there are even more destructive implications of the president's conduct. These actions undermine scientific institutions in the U.S. and science in general.

The Washington Post reports that just before his Dorian SNAFU, a top NOAA official warned staff against contradicting the president. Former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, called it "classic politically motivated obfuscation to justify inaccurate statements made by the boss".

The New York Times reported that top NOAA officials were threatened with dismissal if they failed to backup Trump's false statements about Alabama being in Dorian's path. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs to disavow a tweet from the National Weather Service that contradicted Trump. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia and Jim Himes of Connecticut are among those calling for Ross' resignation.

"His direct attacks on the scientists and federal employees, whom he threatened to fire for doing their jobs by accurately reporting the weather, are an embarrassing new low for a member of this Cabinet which has been historically venal and incompetent," Beyer said in a statement.

In an interview with CNN Himes said if the story is true, "the commerce secretary needs to reign now. That would be the most blateant use of an official position in the service of the ego and the political forutnes of the president we have ever seen. If the commerce secretary is saying I don't care what's true, here is what the president wants, he needs to go and he needs to go yesterday."

Even some Republicans, who have tended to walk in lock-step with the president's obfuscation, said this could be problematic. GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota who oversees the Commerce Department told CNN, "we want the weather service to operate with integrity and without bias." 

It is a sad day when scientific bodies can be forced to make statements in defense of the misapprehensions of an intellectually and morally challenged president.

Trump has a clear pattern, when his lies are exposed he doubles down and lies some more. In the case of his Hurricane Dorian confusion, he tried to redeem himself by doctoring a graphic with a marker so as to suggest that Alabama was in the hurricane's path.

Trump is an embarrassment to himself and the nation. He is a narcissist who cannot admit that he was wrong, he unleashes tirades against reporters who point out his mistakes and he invokes his absurd "fake news" narrative, which is more accurately interpreted as what most would call the truth.

This president is the global leader of anti-science climate denial and his conduct endangers the safety and well-being of Americans. Trump is the most unpopular president in the history of the Republic and the support that he does enjoy comes from manipulating his followers by resorting the base politics of fear and division.

This president's self-serving insensitivity appears to know no bounds. He decided to play a round of golf as the homes of 70,000 Bahamians were being decimated by a category 5 hurricane. At least 30 people are known to have died and hundreds more are missing. Rather than mourn the loss of life or focus on aid he continued to tweet shade at his detractors.

Trump is all about distraction whether intentional or otherwise. Instead of addressing the devastating toll of extreme weather related to climate change, we are discussing the puerile tactics of a shamelessly deceitful president.

* This article was updated on September 10th

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