It has become clear that the Trump administration has a world view that disparages the discussion of global issues while also denigrating science. Two stories help to illustrate this troubling trend. Public Radio International today aired a story about the fact that positions at the U.S. State Department are going unfilled, and the Trump budget proposes a huge cut to the department.
One of those empty chairs at State once belonged to Thomas Countryman, who served in the US foreign service for 35 years. His most recent post during the Obama presidency was assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation. Countryman says there are two possible explanations for why the White House is leaving so many State Department slots unfilled. One is benign, and one is more sinister.
"The benign explanation is that it's difficult to find somebody who has perfect, unthinking loyalty to Mr. Trump and who also is minimally qualified for the job that they would have to do and would need Senate confirmation. Those two groups of people may not intersect at all," he says. "The more difficult explanation, [which] unfortunately, I believe to be true, [is] that there's a deliberate policy on the part of the White House to let the State Department and other agencies atrophy to ensure that there remains a vacuum in the analytical and leadership capabilities of State and other agencies."The second story comes from here in San Diego, but is being repeated in many places in the country. It relates to the concern of scientists that the Trump administration will actively try to destroy data related to climate and other environmental change. The San Diego Union-Tribune reveals that scientists at the University of California, San Diego are trying to make sure that their data are preserved.
Countryman says vacancies at State mean fewer voices might speak out to challenge the snap decisions emanating from the White House.
The situation at UC San Diego resembles efforts by scientists, librarians, environmental activists and others across the country to preserve climate data housed at colleges and on government websites. Representatives of places such as the University of Michigan and MIT said they’re worried that President Donald Trump and his team could suppress information that’s central to policy discussions, international treaties and business regulations.
The president has repeatedly denied the existence of global warming or cast doubt on it. He has called climate change an “expensive hoax” and said, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change.”
And Scott Pruitt — head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal government’s leading enforcer on climate-change issues — said Thursday that he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a “primary contributor” to climate change.These are very unsettling developments and we need to do what we can to keep safety and science at the top of the national agenda.