President Donald Trump apparently thinks he has the power to dictate the forces of nature. Even when scientists are able to demonstrate with visual certainty that nature will behave in specific and predictable ways when certain environmental circumstances are present, Trump consistently tries to narrate his own divergent outcome, no matter how irrational it might be.
For years, Trump has made painfully evident that he believes global warming is a hoax, and no amount of West Coast firestorms or catastrophic weather events will change his mind. Trump is so defiant about the damage being caused by fossil fuels, he is trying to impose policies specifically designed to increase environmental degradation.
But nowhere has his ego-driven policy been more evident than in his insistence last week that Hurricane Dorian was bound for Alabama, even as the top weather scientists in the country insisted otherwise. All pretense of logic and rationality seems to be gone from White House explanations of Trump’s behavior. If Trump’s baseless personal assessments conflict directly with science, computer simulations, satellite imagery and reports on the ground, well, he’s right and they’re wrong.
The easiest solution to Trump’s erroneous tweet on Sept. 1 — warning of a likelihood that Dorian would traverse Florida to hit Alabama — would have been to laugh it off as “covfefe” (a presidential Twitter miscue) or the result of events on the ground outpacing the information Trump received in his daily briefing about Dorian’s trajectory. Instead, Trump dug in, even to the point of presenting a weather map altered clumsily with a Sharpie pen to place Alabama in Dorian’s path.
Anxious to avert panic after Trump’s tweet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alabama office quickly clarified that Dorian would have “no impacts” on Alabama. But Trump wouldn’t let it die, apparently humiliated by being contradicted. NOAA issued an unsigned statement effectively disavowing the Alabama office’s contradictory statement. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees NOAA, threatened to fire top appointees who dared to allow science to contradict the president.
A single weather event prompted all these extraordinary efforts to protect Trump’s fragile ego. Imagine the lengths to which Trump and his aides would go to deny the facts, obscure the truth and label as liars anyone who substantively challenges the president on issues of much more far-reaching consequence, such as Russian election meddling, payoffs to a porn star, or his documented efforts to sway the course of justice during the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Even hard-line Trump supporters must now be questioning whether the man in the Oval Office has the mental stability to stay in this job. The babysitting bill is simply getting too high for the nation to afford.