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Wednesday, May 17, 2017
President Trump (Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
By Anne Applebaum May 16 at 9:36 AM
We live in an age that denigrates knowledge, dislikes expertise and demonizes experts. But now we have proof that experts are sometimes right.
Look at where we are: Last week, President Trump impulsively fired his FBI director, apparently on the grounds that he didn’t like the FBI’s investigation into his election campaign’s possible collaboration with Russia and apparently unaware that this might constitute obstruction of justice. The following day, he agreed to meet the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, a major concession to the Russian president, though he and his staff don’t appear to have been aware that this was the case. He and his staff also allowed Russian journalists carrying cameras into the Oval Office, although the U.S. press was barred. They apparently did not think about whether the cameras might contain recording devices and were surprised when the Russian state news agency published photographs afterward.
President Trump revealed highly classified intel in Oval Office meeting with Russians (Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/The Washington Post)
None of those disastrous decisions was part of a deliberate plan. Each one was made because of the president’s willful ignorance, impulsiveness and inexperience. It is not at all surprising to learn that — during a conversation that shouldn’t have been happening, one that was photographed by a Russian journalist who shouldn’t have been there — the president revealed details of an ongoing intelligence operation. Once again, this was not part of a deliberate plan. Instead, it happened because the president is a braggart who wanted to show off his access to “great intel” and to impress his important guests.
All of this was not only predictable — it was also predicted. Read, again, the statement issued by 50 prominent Republican national security experts issued last August. Note that it was not “pro-Clinton” or left-wing, or even ideological at all. It simply pointed out that Trump — a man who would not, under normal circumstances, ever be given a high-level security clearance — was unfit to be president. Here is the central section:
In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust. In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
At the time, Trump dismissed this letter as “nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power.” But the “elites” were right. The experts were right. Next time maybe more people will heed them.