A friend sent me a Ted Talk given by Bill Gates in 2015.
If you haven’t already seen it–evidently, several million people have–you need to watch it before proceeding to the blog rant it triggered, below. It’s only slightly over seven minutes, and it’s worth it.
Are you back? Good.
As we are now learning, the Trump administration didn’t just ignore warnings from people like Bill Gates, who knows whereof he speaks because his foundation is deeply involved in issues of global health. The Trump Administration ignored alerts from medical experts, dismissed Intelligence briefings warning of the imminence of the threat, and failed to listen to warnings from Obama officials during transition briefings.
It was behavior entirely consistent with Trump’s war on intellect, science and expertise-the only war this disastrous “President” is winning, as he disassembles federal agencies retaining even a hint of expertise or effectiveness.
Talking Points Memo began a recent report with a sentence that should chill us:
The 20-year Capitol Hill veteran is gone. The 20-somethings remain.
The report detailed the abrupt resignation of Dale Cabaniss, the most recent director of the Office of Personnel Management. (As with most agencies under Trump, senior officials change with the seasons…)
According to “several reports”garnered from the most leaky White House in most of our lifetimes, there were two reasons for the departure: first, Trump’s persistent efforts to eliminate OPM entirely, and second, the parade of seasoned officials who have been replaced with “a pack of mostly 20-somethings employed by the White House to, more or less, police political officials for loyalty to the President.”
Now, I have long maintained that it is time for generational change; I supported Mayor Pete before he dropped out of the Presidential race. But the “twenty-somethings” installed by Trump in the highest reaches of the administration are far–far–from the educated and talented members of the younger generation represented by Mayor Pete.
The “twenty-something” placed in charge of Presidential Personnel was John McEntee — a 29-year-old who used to be Trump’s body-man. (“Body man” is apparently polite-speak for “goon acting as bodyguard”) and who was only recently given his new title, more than a year after departing his previous job by Trump’s side.” The “skill” McEntee brought to his new gig? Making viral videos showing his football skills.
Axios reported in February that Trump had empowered McEntee to purge “bad people” and the “Deep State” — meaning, those who don’t sufficiently support Trump.
Since his hiring, McEntee has brought on an even less experienced coterie: First, 23-year-old George Washington University senior James Bacon.
Another temporary hire at the Presidential Personnel Office, per Politico, is John Troup Hemenway, who’s expected to graduate from the University of Virginia in December. Hemenway will reportedly help with paperwork for Defense Department political appointees.
And then there’s Anthony Labruna, an Iowa State student who was recently named a deputy White House liaison for the Department of Commerce.
And that’s where we’re left: In the midst of a global pandemic, a crisis that’s thrown the government into chaos, the experienced pro at the top of the government’s H.R. department is gone. But the shallow state that helped push her out remains.
Time to re-read Hofstadter’s classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, in which he investigated the roots of the deep and persistent animus toward knowledge and expertise displayed by people like Trump–and for that matter, most of today’s GOP.
These people– who disdain as “elitists” the individuals most qualified by education and experience to address the issues we face, and who prefer to listen instead to talking heads who substitute loud certitude for knowledge–may end up being responsible for more deaths than history’s bloodiest tyrants.