Donald Trump is not just any Republican president. He is an unstable autocrat perpetually torn between his desire to exert control and his desire to say breathtakingly stupid things. But even as the man himself descends to further depths of conspiratorial mania, some of his most tangibly harmful policies are those you could reasonably expect from any Republican president.
The best example of this is the Trump administration’s climate change policy, or rather its lack thereof. Climate change was absent from the president’s joint address to Congress last week: The greatest threat to the future of our country and our species was completely omitted from a speech whose stated purpose was to outline the “critical challenges we face at home and abroad.”
But since he complains so often about how the media treats him unfairly, let’s give our new president the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just forgot to mention climate change. Maybe it got cut for time.
If that were the case (and of course it isn’t), it would be hard to square with the White House’s actions on climate policy since the speech. Last Friday it was revealed that the Trump administration will seek a 17 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s funding in its budget proposal to Congress. That includes a 26 percent cut to NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, a 22 percent cut to that office’s satellite data division, and significant cuts to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. The administration is proposing similarly drastic cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency.
So it’s looking pretty grim for environmentalists, believers in scientific consensus and the human race. Still, the speech wasn’t a total loss. In his address, Trump briefly expressed a desire to “promote clean air and clean water.”
But if that is his wish, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Trump’s EPA is expected to roll back Obama-era fuel economy regulations on automakers, which will lead to greater carbon emissions and pollution — not exactly “clean air.” And on the same day that he delivered his speech, he signed an order intended to “pave the way” for the elimination of a rule that expands the scope of the Clean Water Act of 1972, and helps ensure safe drinking water. Incidentally (or not), the rule also entails closer federal regulation of golf courses in the United States, including some owned by the Trump business empire.
So no clean water either.
But again, these aren’t uniquely Trumpian policies, like the border wall or the travel ban. They’re standard issue Republican positions. The GOP has long waged war against government research and regulatory agencies like NOAA and the EPA. The same auto industry regulation that the Trump administration wants to roll back was opposed by Mitt Romney during the 2012 election cycle. No, Donald Trump isn’t a normal Republican president. But in many ways, the things that make him a Republican are just as dangerous as the things that make him Donald Trump, and they’re made more dangerous by seeming normal next to whatever unprecedented lunacy the president is engaging in on any given day.
Groves is a government sophomore from Dallas. Follow him on twitter @samgroves