Various of our presidents have entered office amid a great deal of controversy. It’s probably safe to say that the opposition virtually always wrings their hands in despair.
But this time is different, unlike anything that has ever happened before. That Donald Trump will actually become president astonished virtually everyone. Even many members of the Republican Party, who refused to support him during the campaign, are, with the inauguration at our doorstep, as alarmed as Democrats and other thinking people are.
On his way out the door President Obama published a 50-page article on legal matters and shorter one on science trends, both in respected journals, while Donald Trump put out insulting 140-character Tweets about his “enemies”, by which he means literally everyone who is not a strong supporter. Unfortunately, this sort of activity, completely and endlessly egocentric, is the most characteristic activity in his repertoire, and his ADD prevents his attention on anything for more than a few minutes. He could not write what I’m writing now, which is hardly Nobel material.
There is something pathologically wrong with this man. Many believe that Trump should be examined by clinical psychiatrists, because he exhibits many characteristics of the mentally ill. Trump is unlikely to do so, because his enormous narcissistic ego leads him to believe that he is extraordinarily smart, and practically perfect in every way. This braggadocio alarmed many people when he refused to attend the daily briefings that would keep him up to date on global events, supposedly because he was too smart to need them. It remains to be seen whether Congress will be forced by circumstances to either demand an examination or simply impeach him, hopefully before he does too much damage.
He is apparently smart enough to game the tax system and to routinely cheat the people who work for him, but these are legal, not presidential, requirements. He faces thousands of court cases, at least one on-again-off-again for rape of a minor. In New York, hundreds of workers he has stiffed are placing liens on the hotel they worked on without getting paid, one of thousands of lawsuits he faces.
A small group of very wealthy men (almost always men) gained their wealth from the mining and use of fossil fuels, which is the main reason the planet is in dire danger. These men cannot be convinced that the Carbon Age is over, because that’s how they made their money, and not one believes that the future lies elsewhere. They devote hundreds of millions to propaganda denying what cannot be denied. Even in the face of radical change in energy use all around them, their faith remains unshaken.
Trump, like the fossil fuel billionaires, doesn’t “believe” in the climate change that has engulfed our little planet. As if our daily experience could be a matter of belief. As if the deadly smog engulfing Beijing and Kolkata were a mere figment. As if the last dozen years or so, each year setting a new heat record, is something made up by Las Vegas bookies. While those who don’t understand that the Age of Carbon is over try to pretend these changes are not happening, smarter people are working on ways to survive. “Alternative” energy sources are fast becoming “standard” fuel sources that will leave the fossil billionaires with a new nickname, fossil fuel fossils.
A small but slowly growing list of Republicans seems to be coming around to acceptance of these realities, rather than religious faith that so many rely on to guide them through difficulties that have nothing to do with religion. Although Trump doesn’t appear to be at all religious, he can’t accept that the huge changes happening daily to our planet are real. He simply doesn’t understand that it is impossible to “not believe” in science, any more than they could “not believe” in gravity, because science is entirely indifferent to all systems of belief and human endeavors. Science is how we have been able to learn about the realities of the universe, which were always there. A star that explodes is indifferent to anyone’s opinion. It explodes whether or not someone “believes” it exploded. You cannot not believe in it because it is reality, and indifferent to your beliefs.
And so, Donald Trump Trump selects people for his administration entirely on the basis of their personal wealth and their agreement with him. Not on their expertise, not on their accomplishments, not on their openness to reality and evidence. He thinks money is the hallmark of “success” that will enable them to deal with their challenges, and cannot conceive of a more important criterion.
Worse, virtually every appointment is a person who believes in the opposite of his job’s description. They believe their goal is to dismantle their department, and kill off everything in Washington. They think the Great Free Market will be the unseen hand that will guide our nation of 340,000,000 souls to a new prosperity.
What will happen when President Trump demands something of the world that is impossible to fulfill? What will happen when he demands that rational persons believe what they know cannot occur? What will happen when the outcome of his plans is the opposite of what he believes will happen?