Facts Are Facts

Facts Are Facts

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The major challenge that the public will face when Donald Trump assumes the White House is whether anyone or any institution or any organization will be prepared to hold Trump accountable for what he says and does; assuming he even agrees to hold press conferences. Trump has a clear history of doing whatever he wants; to never accept responsibility for mistakes; and to always blame others if and when something goes wrong. While this situation will be problematic on domestic issues it will could well become extremely serious on national security issues.

One needs only to consider the fact that Trump made all types of outrageous assertions during the campaign and has persisted in doing so since winning election. That he conducted his personal business this way in his previous personal life is one thing; to think that he intends to continue to act in this manner in the future is absolutely scary. It is not only that even Presidents are not above the law, but that the media, the public and political institutions must be prepared to reject presidential action which endangers the safety and future of the nation.

Trump may suggest that he is available on any crisis within a minute’s notice, but the fact that he feels no compelling need to stay informed on global intelligence issues on a daily basis is frightening. As Trump remarked during the campaign, for example, he did not need to listen to generals because he knew more than they did anyway!

Perhaps the most foreboding observations on the president-elect’s apparent approach to his need for intelligence briefings and their value in decision-making came from General Michael Hayden who headed the National Security Agency under Presidents Clinton and Bush (1999-2005) and the CIA under President Bush (2005-2009). As he observed, there may well be differences in policy and strategic options but intelligence facts are facts. To categorically assume that the facts are wrong is somewhat similar to asserting that he knows the moon is made of green cheese. Hayden said:

He[Trump]’s got a right to be skeptical — in fact, maybe he even has a duty to be skeptical, but skeptical based on the facts. He’s rejecting the argument, not on factual data, but on a priori assumptions that he had before he got introduced to the data.

Now, [they are] simply saying “the corrupt and politicized and incompetent intelligence community” without beginning to address the data on which they seem to be making these conclusions.

There is the hope that people like Senators Collins, Flake, Graham, McCain, or Sasse or other voices within the Republican Party will stand up to Trump. Hopefully some of the senior party leaders will protest his flippant approach to Putin and Russia; the apparent election hacking outrage; and questions about the lack of qualifications of some of the Cabinet appointments. (They will all probably be confirmed but they need to put Trump on notice of Republican concerns; not just the Democrats'.)

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