Trump clearly doesn’t know he’d need a permit to ‘drain the swamp.’
by Len Bahr, Ph.D.
Proclivity: a strong natural liking for or tendency to do something that is usually bad.
Humans are supposedly gifted with five senses, although I would argue that the number is actually greater; for example I would add the sense of humor, which our POTUS-elect seems to lack. Both Al Franken and Michael Moore have independently noted and speculated on the significance of Donald Trump’s utter humorlessness. These two practitioners of both politics and humor have observed that, despite the endless hours that he spends fawning in front of multiple cameras, Donald Trump frequently smiles but he never ever laughs.
I’m equally intrigued by Trump’s apparent musical insensibility. I believe that the breadth of ones musical taste is positively correlated with curiosity and open-mindedness.* So far Mr. Trump has telegraphed no predilection for any musical genre that I know of, but I’ve heard that he objected to the NPR-sponsored October 2016 performance at the White House by the rapper Common.
In contrast, Trump leaves no doubt about his visual, esthetic sense. His fondness for monumental edifices bearing his Midas-tinged moniker and his fetish for gold plated toilets are both tacky to the tenth power.
Another important sense involves empathy, caring for something beyond ones personal comfort and time horizon. Concern about the welfare of future generations facing a warming and degraded biosphere would qualify as a selfless cause. Refugees from progressively inundating Pacific island nations or towns in S. Louisiana come to mind. Trump is clearly insensitive (i.e., clueless) about global warming, as shown not only by his assertion that climate change is a Chinese hoax, but also by his promise to expand coal mining and oil drilling and his objection to the esthetic cost to his Scottish golf course of the ‘visual pollution’ of an offshore wind farm.
In ticking off Trump’s sensibilities and insensitivities I’ve been leading up to his repetitious employment of a laughably archaic metaphor for eliminating political corruption. I’m referring, of course, to the phrase ‘Draining the Swamp,‘ which presumably came into vogue with the passage of the federal Swamplands Act of 1850. That grotesquely misguided piece of legislation subsidized swampy states like Florida for converting their useless ‘wastelands’ into ‘productive’ farmland.
This act was reversed in 1972, after most of the horses had long left the barn. That’s when swamps and other wetlands were classified under the so-called Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and protected (albeit weakly) by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. By this time the enormous public value of swamps and other wetlands had been documented by the scientific community.
If there is one phrase coming out of the Donald’s mouth to which Louisiana folks should object, it’s drain the swamp. Louisiana swamps, one of the most important wetland components of America’s Delta, were once magnificent expanses of ancient cypress-tupelo forests that were logged almost to extinction by 1920. Now what remains of our second growth coastal forests is under severe threat, as addressed in the newly-released draft 2017 Coastal Master Plan.
Someone should whisper into one of our POTUS-elect’s bright orange ears that swamps are wetlands, and thus at least semi-protected by the EPA, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Logical candidates include Scott Pruitt, Trump’s regulation-hating nominee for EPA administrator; Ryan Zinke, his Department of Interior secretary-appointee; or a potential new Secretary of the Army. Or maybe the senior member of our Bayou State GOP delegation should do the honors – what say you Steve Scalise?
Just kidding, of course. Trump obviously won’t be hearing it from any of these folks but draining our swamps is as inappropriate a metaphor for making the federal government effective as I can possibly imagine. Donald’s insensitivities and senseless proclivities threaten not just our government in general but the swampy coast of Louisiana in particular.
Sadly, neither the country nor Donald have much to laugh about eleven short days out from inauguration day.
*A curious outlier to this statistical correlation was the 19th century explorer, geologist, philosopher and father of ecology Alexander von Humboldt , who, according to his biographer Andrea Wulf, was too obsessed with his science to listen to music.