Donald Trump's warped war on facts continues.
The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia tried to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor by hacking into Democratic computers. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, the president-elect dismissed the finding as "ridiculous" and added, "I think it's just another excuse, I don't believe it. ... No, I don't believe it at all."
His close adviser Kellyanne Conway called the CIA's report "laughable," and Trump demeaned the agency's credibility with a snarky statement: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."
Here's a hard truth that Trump and his team refuse to recognize: Just because the president-elect believes something does not make it true. Faith is not fact. Theology is no basis for governing.
This is getting really dangerous. It is one thing, as a candidate, to spin a fantasy world of outright lies (Muslims in New Jersey did not celebrate the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11) and false promises (most manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the industrial Midwest).
But when a president denies reality, especially in critical areas of national intelligence and security, the stakes are much higher.
Michael V. Hayden, director of the CIA under President Bush 43, told The New York Times: "To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his 'a priori' assumptions -- wow."
Trump's attacks on the intelligence agency are part of a clear and disturbing pattern: He demeans any person or institution that criticizes his worldview or contradicts his assumptions.
Chuck Jones, a union leader at the Carrier Corp., told The Washington Post that Trump was actually saving only 730 jobs in Indiana, not the 1,100 he claimed when he visited the plant recently. Trump refused to admit the discrepancy and instead assailed Jones on Twitter for doing a "terrible job representing workers."
Asked about climate change on Fox, Trump said "nobody really knows" what causes global warming. But that's not true. As the Post pointed out, "There is a broad scientific consensus that human activity" is the cause. Trump, however, feels no obligation to support his claims with evidence. His assertions are sufficient. This is Peter Pan-style politics: Clap if you believe in fairies.
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly assailed journalists in a deliberate and cynical campaign to undermine their credibility as critics. Now he's doing the same thing with scientists and intelligence analysts.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's attack on the CIA "appears to be a unique historical event, according to scholars." Current and former intelligence officers said "they were stunned by Mr. Trump's remarks, which indicated that he not only distrusts the CIA's analysts but may view the agency as aligned against him."
Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, told the Post: "Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill-will between the president and the intelligence community." That distrust is already apparent, since Trump often declines to attend the agency's daily intelligence briefing because he's such a "smart person."
Now, the CIA is certainly not infallible, and its flawed reports on Saddam Hussein's arsenal were a huge and costly error. But this is a president-elect who has zero experience in foreign policy and security issues. A "smart person" would welcome those briefings and admit what he doesn't know. Not Trump. His ignorance is only exceeded by his arrogance.
Fortunately, a number of Republicans are deeply alarmed at Trump's cavalier dismissal of the CIA's report. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joined senior Democrats in issuing a statement that read, "Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, endorsed a Congressional investigation, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said such a probe would be "useful toward achieving an objective accounting of any alleged meddling by foreign adversaries." Sen. Ron Johnson said his Homeland Security Committee would "continue to hold hearings based on fact -- not innuendo -- for the purpose of informing effective policy."
Objective accounting. Hearings based on fact. Apparently these are radical notions in Trump's alternative universe. But they are absolutely essential to the national interest.
– By Steve and Cokie Roberts, NEA Columnists