A Republican on "Republican Experts" | THE POLITICUS

A Republican on "Republican Experts"

It has been said that Newt Gingrich is “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.” Who coined that phrase , but there is broad agreement that the sentiment is applicable. I will go further and say this characteristic of Newt’s is not just a personal foible; it establishes a model for Republican politicians and operatives since his time in Congress.

That is the opening paragraph of , a piece at Moyers & company by Mike Lofgren, a retired, long-time Congressional Republican staffer.

This is a piece well worth reading.  I missed it when it first went up on November 18, and encountered yesterday as the result of a tweet.

Lofgren not only takes apart Gingrich, he does so as well with the likes of Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, as well as a  number of key “experts” who have been a part of Trump’s team, such at former Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland (now ambassador to Singapore) and supposed terrorism expert “Dr.” Sebastian Gorka.  The details he gives about all these folks are delicious.

He is especially harsh on former Marine General John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff, taking us through not only some of his weirder remarks in his current position, and his failings that should now be obvious after Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands during his tenure at Homeland Security, but even during his military service when he was the head of Southern Command:

Lying and bullying are not necessarily signs of professional incompetence, but what about Kelly’s own expertise? When he was commander of the US Southern Command, he publicly stated that the border area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet is , a wacky belief out of the right-wing paranoia factories. With the existence of very real national security threats and the need to prioritize them, do we really need government officials who fall for such stuff?

Lofgren is especially harsh on the Republican approach to science.  This section is rich, and should be unsurprising to anyone who regularly reads this site.  He takes us through some of the denials offered by a Republican staffer on the effects of Agent Orange, and before he transitions to details about some of the “science” appointees of Trump (like Sam Clovis) he offers this paragraph:

A decade later, Republican science policy has progressed to the point where, as a matter of routine, studies are quashed, scientists purged, and policies resembling a voodoo spell promulgated. who ever received a grant from the EPA and replacing them with industry-friendly shills, administrator Scott Pruitt referenced the Book of Joshua for support.

The last section of his piece is Lofgren’s attempt to explain how this happened. He reminds us that there was a history of Republican Presidents from Lincoln through TR to Ike who supported education including science and technology endeavors (unlike the current Senate Republicans who seem in their proposed tax legislation to destroy wealthier universities and undercut graduate education).  Heck, he could even have included Nixon as a Republican President more supportive of science and knowledge than either the current Congressional Republicans or the Trump administration.

It is the final three paragraphs of the piece that most caught my attention.  The first of these reads as follows:

That said, the GOP did not conjure the current national receptivity to alternative facts out of thin air. They are taking advantage of one of the periodic waves of anti-intellectualism that have swept the popular mind since the days of the Salem witch trials. The present wave began with the rise of politicized Christian fundamentalism in the 1970s. Some reckoned that the tide was ebbing with the election of Barack Obama, but that was clearly a false dawn.

I can remember in the 1950s attacks on Adlai Stevenson for being an intellectual. In recent years we have seen attempts to ban the teaching of evolution, drop evolution from state standards for biology, require teaching of Creation Science or of its substitute “Intelligent Design” (the last of these failing in a case in Pennsylvania where George W. Bush appointed Federal District Judge John Jones totally destroyed the argument in his opinion in

The penultimate paragraph reminds us that what we get in places like Congress are the results of votes by the American people, whose attitudes on science are often less than intelligent:

It is all very well to wax indignant over Republican politicians who routinely lie about the most elementary facts and denounce scientific consensus as a hoax. But they are routinely re-elected by an American population are closer to those in Turkey than in developed Western democracies, and who also believe in , and in and .

Finally, Lofgren closes by reminding us that the issue was one of which the Founders were aware, at least in part, as one can see by whom he quotes in this final paragraph:

e implications of mass ignorance were well known to the framers of the Constitution. In 1822, James Madison wrote, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Public schools that well educate the population accurately on science — and economics, and politics, and history — represent a real threat to the way too many in the party of the Elephant seek to obtain and hold power.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  We have a substantial portion of our population that is willing to reject learning of any kind if it threatens the views on which their approach to life is based, that they hear regularly from their pulpits, from people who claim to be Christian and yet whose knowledge of either the Hebrew or Christian Scripture is often highly selective and based on less than completely accurate translations. 

The piece is worth reading, hence this post to call your attention to it.

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