The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Trump’s Top Science Advisor Never Studied Science

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.com

As the U.S. faces one of the worst flu seasons in decades — on the heels of a record-breaking hurricane season — key decisions about science policy are being made by someone with no training in science.

You can thank Trump for that.

He still hasn’t appointed anyone as the top science adviser for the White House, a position that has traditionally been held by prominent scientists with extensive education and experience. So the post fell into the lap of a 31-year-old politics major whose most recent job was as chief of staff for Trump ally and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

As the de-facto head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Michael Kratsios — who holds a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Hellenic (Greek) studies — is tasked with advising the White House on decisions about matters ranging from disease outbreaks to natural disasters. He was initially brought into the White House to advise Trump on tech-related issues.

Trump’s failure to appoint a top science adviser leaves the nation vulnerable during times of crisis, when it’s critical to have a point person who can offer objective advice informed by science. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both appointed physicists to fill the position.

“You need somebody who the president trusts, who can sort all that stuff out and who can explain to the president that there are all these different perspectives and here’s why there are and here’s what I think,” Neal Lane, who served as science adviser under President Bill Clinton, told Scientific American.

“There is nobody like that with regards to science, technology and engineering matters, so we have a crisis, and there may be some brewing that you and I don’t know even about,” Lane continued. “Usually they come as surprises, and that’s scary.”

As Scientific American points out, a science adviser could have helped advise Trump’s decision-making during the deadly hurricanes and wildfires that ravaged the country last fall, as well as on issues such as nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran, lead contaminated water, and outbreaks of the flu and other infectious diseases.

In one week alone in January, about 4,000 Americans died from the flu, and the death toll is expected to grow even higher in coming weeks because flu activity is still on the rise. When the ebola outbreak struck during President Obama’s administration, his science adviser played a major role in guiding and coordinating outbreak prevention and control activities.

Trump’s adviser may still play a key role — but he doesn’t appear to have the qualifications to do so competently or effectively.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the Trump administration, where being woefully under-qualified is apparently a work requirement — even if lives may hang in the balance.

 

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Youtube Screenshot

Republicans need the political press to do a lot of bad journalism in order to carry out their strategy of forcing through devastating spending cuts by leveraging the prospect of a calamitous default on U.S. debt. They need political journalists to produce wishy-washy “both sides” coverage that hides the party’s ultimate culpability and shields it from blame. And the latest coverage from The New York Times shows that their plan may already be working.

It shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge that Republicans will be the ones at fault if the U.S. breaches the statutory limit on federal borrowing in June. Members of Congress of both parties routinely voted for clean debt limit hikes during Donald Trump’s presidency, which also saw record debt increases. But with Joe Biden in the White House, GOP leaders startedsaying last fall that they would require significant spending cuts – including to Social Security and Medicare – alongside further debt limit increases if their party won the House.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}