The Inside the Bubble Presidency: Trump, Intelligence Briefings and the EPA

A few weeks ago, there were reports that US President-Elect Donald Trump had been refusing daily intelligence briefings. His response was basically that he is a smart guy already:

“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

Forget, for a moment, that he completely missed the point of daily intelligence briefings and weirdly took the story personally and got defensive about it. Let us assume that he is “like, a smart person” who knows what he’s doing.

Now consider a presumably unrelated story about how the incoming administration is handling its Environmental Protection Agency transition and the full picture becomes much clearer.

Trump isn’t building a wall, he’s building a bubble.

This isn’t the famous Washington Bubble, the one that led all the insiders to believe that another Clinton was the right choice for the Democratic nomination and a surefire winner in the race to the White House, especially if she wasn’t running against a Bush. The same bubble that said a candidate with a big enough scandal couldn’t survive in a House or Senate race, let alone be elected President.

No, he burst that bubble. And while many establishment types on both sides of the aisle are trying desperately to rebuild it, the President Elect is busy building a completely different bubble.

No Daily Intelligence Briefings

Trump isn’t the first incoming President to reject daily intelligence briefings. George W. Bush did that, too. The neocons he surrounded himself with were’t thrilled with the constant talk of Al Queda when they “knew” the real threat was from Iraq (How did that work out?) .

Maybe Trump doesn’t want to hear any intelligence briefings that would contradict his belief and much argued campaign talking point that the biggest threats to America are Muslim immigrants and undocumented Mexicans. He doesn’t need some stuffy CIA operatives telling him that the real threat is elsewhere, maybe even with someone he is doing business with.

Instead, he’ll listen to Alex Jones and his incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is someone who very well may listen to Jones himself. A noted Islamophobe, he once claimed that he personally saw signs in Arabic along the US/Mexico Border, which, of course, do not exist.

Trump wants the information he gets to mirror the half-truths and complete falsehoods he campaigned on. The only way for that to happen is if he gets his info in a bubble, a bubble he is helping to build.

When the Science Doesn’t Fit, Change the Scientists

Trump appointed Climate Change denier and man who sued the EPA twelve times, Scott Pruitt, as the agency’s new head. Then he put the man who couldn’t remember the name of the Energy Department but still wanted to dismantle it, Rick Perry, in charge of it.

Those antagonistic picks are in keeping with most of Trump’s cabinet choices so far. They’re really just the tip of the iceberg, though (assuming there still are icebergs in a few years).

A couple of weeks ago, Trump’s transition team asked for the names of Energy Department employees and contractors who “have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.” Fortunately, the Energy Department did deny the request, but it looks like a purge is what Team Trump is going for.

If a purge is imminent, it will signal not only that Trump really does believe, as he once tweeted, that climate change is a scam invented by China, but that he doesn’t want to hear any expert opinion that contradicts that talking point.

It’s not just threats to the country that can’t enter the bubble, it’s threats to the planet, too, apparently.

What Happens When the Bubble Bursts?

Ask any economist and they will tell you that bubbles burst. Come to think of it, anyone who has tried, as a kid or youthful adult, to catch a bubble and keep it whole can tell you the same thing. Trump’s bubble is no different.

Just because Trump doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change doesn’t mean the climate will stop changing. Just because he doesn’t get to hear someone telling him every day that his plan to fight terror will only cause more of it, doesn’t mean it won’t.

At some point, the Trump bubble will burst. The question is will he realize it and change his ways or at least his policies and the people he has around him, or will he stay the course and instruct his acolytes to rebuild the bubble at all costs?

George W. Bush’s bubble burst twice. The first time was on 9/11. At first, it seemed, he started listening to outside voices. But soon enough, Bin Laden was a job for the next guy and he was going to war with Iraq.

The bubble was rebuilt, even Katrina couldn’t puncture it. The financial crisis of 2008 did burst it again, but by that point, he didn’t care. It was a problem for the next guy to deal with.

While all indications are that Trump will behave in a similar fashion, we can all (and I mean the whole world) only hope that when the bubble he is building does burst, he will surprise us all again (the way he did when he won) and do the right thing.

Unlikely, sure. But the alternative (think nukes) could be catastrophic.

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