Trump and the Golden Age of Stupidity

David Rothkopf catches the essence of the Trump era: It is America’s “Golden Age of Stupidity.”

“Hello, you have reached the United States of America. We’re sorry no one is here to take your call right now. We have taken leave of our senses and are unsure when they’ll return. Please try again in three-and-a-half years.”

If America had a voice-mail message to the world, this would be it. We are running an experiment in exploring the consequences of suddenly having the world’s most important power go absent without leave on the world stage.

Some of the signs of U.S. withdrawal have made international headlines. But some of the ways we are abandoning our leadership role are less visible. For example, few things are more directly associated with American leadership than our standing as a source of innovation, research, and scientific and technological expertise. Yet, President Trump — who has struggled to successfully conceive or maintain many policy initiatives — has shown remarkable steadfastness in his campaign against science.

George W. Bush had the War on Terror. Donald Trump has the War on Truth.

In the past month, the last few scientists have exited the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) Science Division. The OSTP is staffed at approximately a third of the level it was during the Obama administration; President Trump has yet to name a head of the office. Last week, the State Department’s top science and technology adviser, Vaughan Turekian, resigned amid a swirl of rumors that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was planning on shuttering his entire science and tech operation. There have been a number of non-scientist appointments in posts with major scientific elements, including the appointment of Samuel Clovis to be undersecretary in charge of the Agriculture Department’s research, education and economic efforts. Clovis, who has virtually no science background, will oversee efforts on vital issues ranging from the spread of diseases to the effects of pesticides.

Clovis, like many in the administration, is a climate-change “skeptic.” So, too, is Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. As giant chunks of Antarctica snap off the continent’s ice pack and weather patterns continue to confirm the conclusions of 97 percent of the scientific community that anthropogenic climate change is real, Trump has surrounded himself with people such as Clovis and Pruitt who simply disregard the facts, putting all of us at risk….

He neglects to mention the willfully disastrous choice of rightwing religious fanatic and libertarian ideologue Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. She is a triumph of wealth over intellect. Her goal is to demolish America’s great public school system, about which she knows nothing. You can’t make America great again by attacking its education system; you can make it great only by improving its schools. DeVos belittles the public schools because they were started in the 1800s; will she also belittle the Constitution because it was written in the 1700s?

The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. But the willful disregard of knowledge — regardless of motive — is stupidity. That is because those who battle facts are at war with reality. It is an unwinnable proposition. Furthermore, specialized knowledge, particularly that of scientists, is essential if we are to do what leaders must, anticipate change, understand its consequences and harness the opportunities it presents. Trump, in waging a systematic campaign to rid the government of the experts and ideas he sees as threats to his agenda, has done more than just usher in a Golden Age of Stupidity. He is unwittingly asking a question it doesn’t take an expert to figure out: “What happens when you lobotomize the world’s leading power?”

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2eM85te

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