Trump Administration Needs To Be Watched

The ECOreport reposts an OP-ED by a former senior analyst from the DOE, the Trump administration needs to be watched

Originally Published in the Fairfax Times

By Dr. Allan Hoffman

I voted for Hillary Clinton to become our next President because I thought she was a better choice than Donald Trump in temperament, experience, and policy. I also thought it was time to have a female president. I did this despite two serious misgivings about Clinton, her handling of the health insurance issue in the early days of her husband’s first term as President, and her failure to respond adequately to the seriousness of her decision to use a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. As a former government official I understand how frustrating dealing with the security systems in government can be, but poor judgements were made by Clinton and her staff, all of whom should have known better. Nevertheless, I was strongly offended by many of Trump’s statements during the Republican primary race and the general election, and saw no way to vote for a man I considered an uninformed and arrogant demagogue.

Trump Administration Needs To Be Watched

Well, enough of my fellow citizens felt differently and Donald Trump is our President-elect. Being a strong believer in Churchill’s 1947 statement that “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” I reluctantly accepted the results of our democratic process. As I first did in 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected President and I had a fleeting hope that he would govern differently than his record would suggest, I asked myself if that was possible with Trump. However I quickly reminded myself that the Nixon we saw from the late 1940s to 1968 was the Nixon we got, and I concluded that Trump as President would most likely be the bullying, uncouth, self-focused narcissist we had seen over the past 20-30 years. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal and Trump’s apparent lack of core beliefs and mercurial nature suggest a President with unusual flexibility to go in many different directions. We shall see.

The Test To Come

More than halfway through the transition period there are many unknowns as to what we can expect from a Trump White House. A few mixed signals have emerged from his proposed appointments, but in reality we are left with many questions. However, we do know a few things: the next few years, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, will be a real test of the GOP, where party loyalty in a number of cases will come into conflict with national values and interests. Checks and balances among the three branches of our government, a pillar of our form of democracy, will be tested as never before in my lifetime. Not only was the recent election a test of the American people but the next few years will be a test of our democratic institutions as well.

He Can Slow Things Down

As a person who devoted the bulk of his professional career (I retired in 2012) to the development and deployment of clean energy technologies (energy efficiency, renewable energy), I am quite concerned about what a Trump Administration could do to U.S. efforts to move as rapidly as possible from an energy system highly dependent on fossil fuels to one increasingly dependent on clean energy. While a President is not a dictator and cannot do anything he wants to do in our system of checks and balances, he can change emphases and slow things down, especially when he is surrounding himself with climate change deniers or skeptics and, in principle, can count on the support of a Republican House and Senate. His initial proposed appointments raise serious concern about the path he will pursue, especially in light of his oft-repeated statement that global climate change is a ‘hoax’ perpetrated by the Chinese. This is an ignorant and false statement but a President and his appointees can do damage in a variety of ways to our national clean energy programs. Thankfully, other countries, and individual states within our Union, are not likely to follow such a damaging path.

Trump’s Request For Names

What is of particular new concern is the Trump Transition Team’s now withdrawn request to the Department of Energy to provide the names of DOE employees and contractors who worked on climate change issues. For those of us old enough to remember the 1950s this request brought back memories of the McCarthy era when a U.S. Senator abused his position as a Committee Chairman to carry out witch hunts for possible communist sympathizers. It took a while, but responsible government and private sector officials finally opposed such un-American tactics and censured the Senator. The Transition Team’s request for names raises the same concerns about intimidation, and was properly rebuffed by the Department. Nevertheless, the fact that such a request initially made it through the filters of the Transition Team suggest a tendency to suppress opposing views, a precursor to autocratic rule. This concern is also raised by Trump’s attitude toward the press. A free press is critical to a functioning democracy, and another test for our country will be whether the press is up to its task of probing government intensively and fairly and bringing the results of that probing to the American public. Recent history suggests that the press has not always done its job as well as it should and that the new Administration may resist such probing.

I recognize that some people might see a degree of paranoia in my comments above, but there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about what might happen in the next four, and possibly eight, years – I have read too much history of Europe in the 1930s. People said suppression of democracy couldn’t happen in Germany and Italy, and it did. Speaking up is required. Not speaking up is failing in our capacity as citizens in a democratic country.

Photo Credit: Air Force One—October 24th – Photograph by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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