U.S. editorial excerpts

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Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:


(The Washington Post, Washington)

President Trump thinks he knows better than anyone, but not because he actually knows very much. His 2016 campaign was run from the gut, under the explicit rationale that "experts are terrible" and that whatever someone with a degree and years of experience could do in any area of government, he could do better relying on instinct. His White House has conducted itself according to this philosophy, to devastating effect.

The best sort of expert, in Mr. Trump's view, is the kind with no independent judgment at all. "My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition," White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has said. He continued: "And his intuition is always right in these matters." When a public servant can't provide those comfortingly confirming analytics, he risks excoriation by tweet and in person, at best, and removal from his post at worst. The West Wing and the Cabinet are in a constant flux of professionals hired, discarded, hired and discarded again: four chiefs of staff, four national security advisers, five homeland security secretaries.

The intelligence community has been a particular casualty, being responsible for issuing the verdict the president least wants to hear, or least wants others to know: that Russia helped him in the 2016 election and is working for him again this year. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats got the ax for refusing to obscure that assessment. His acting replacement, Joseph Maguire, was ousted after he had the nerve to defend his aide and election security unit leader Shelby Pierson, who herself had the nerve to tell the House Intelligence Committee that it was the community's consensus that Russia was trying to help Mr. Trump win again.

A similar contempt for competence and impartiality has seeped through the government these past three-plus years. The Justice Department has suffered, and the State Department, as a former ambassador and former undersecretary said, has seen "the most significant departure of diplomatic talent in ages." Almost half of the agency's career ministers left or were forced to leave in the initial two years of Mr. Trump's tenure.

When his own government produced an assessment that global warming left unaddressed would ravage the U.S. economy, Mr. Trump said, "I don't believe it." Maybe to avoid a repeat of this inconvenient news, the EPA has written a rule giving itself permission to ignore good science by restricting the type of research it considers usable. When the Census Bureau was told to remove undocumented immigrants from the head count, then cut the time-intensive process short by a month, it prepared to paint a picture of the country the president wants rather than the country that exists. Emblematic is Mr. Trump's insistence that more covid-19 testing creates more cases. This, of course, isn't true.

But the degradation of data collection serves one obvious purpose: If we don't gather information, we cannot see the depth of Mr. Trump's failures. Another term could allow Mr. Trump to complete the demoralization, politicization and destruction of a workforce that was once the envy of the world: the U.S. civil service, health service, Foreign Service and uniformed military. In everything from consumer safety to air quality to life expectancy, the results would be catastrophic. But there would be nobody left to measure them.

(Sept. 8)