U.S. government chicken coops are so full of foxes under the Trump administration, it's fair to call it a fox invasion. The latest is the apparent move to install a second climate-science skeptic among the top ranks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He will be in good company with former energy lobbyists heading key environmental posts, government watch dogs who are clearly lap dogs, and an attorney general who uses his office to undermine the rule of law.
The Washington Post reports that the still-unannounced appointment of meteorologist Ryan Maue to a top science position at the NOAA will give him roles in setting research priorities and enforcing its scientific integrity policy. Maue is known for challenging the growing scientific consensus that global warming is already contributing to extreme weather events. Scientific challenges are legitimate, but Maue frequently couches his in bluntly partisan terms. "Democrats have coordinated their efforts" to "score political points," he recently tweeted, alleging they blame California's wildfires "solely on climate change (and Trump)." That hyperbole sounds less like it's coming from a disinterested scientist than from a political loyalist.
Maue will find a kindred spirit in David Legates, a controversial climate change skeptic with ties to the Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel industry front organization that has led the fight to mislead the public about the facts on climate change. The Trump administration recently made Legates the Commerce Department's deputy assistant secretary, in charge of environmental observation and prediction at the NOAA.
This all makes sense in the context of Trump's longstanding denial of climate change and his determination as president to undermine any national attempts to confront it. The same fox/chicken coop dynamic explains Trump's appointment of Environmental Protection Agency Director Andrew Wheeler, a former fossil-fuel lobbyist who helped polluters fight for goals like ending mercury regulation. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, in charge of protecting America's wildlife and wild land, is a former oil lobbyist who once led a lawsuit seeking to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Trump's refusal to accept any kind of oversight from anyone has led him to fire federal inspectors general, the people whose whole job is to look over the shoulders of Trump's people. In at least five instances, Trump has replaced them with loyalists to himself, effectively gutting any oversight at all. Then of course there is the head fox, Attorney General William Barr, America's chief law enforcement official, who has brazenly used his office to "investigate the investigators" who did their jobs by exposing the Trump campaign's dalliances with Russia and Trump's personal role in trying to cover them up.
If and hopefully when Joe Biden takes office in January, he should dispense with talk of "draining the swamp" and vow instead to clear out the fox pack that is currently preying on the very functions of government they're supposed to protect.
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