Trump fools the New York Times on climate change

Memo to media: Ignore what Trump says, focus on what he does and who he appoints.

Trump waves to crowd as he leaves New York Times Tuesday. CREDIT: AP/Mark Lennihan
Trump waves to crowd as he leaves New York Times Tuesday. CREDIT: AP/Mark Lennihan

Donald Trump spouted incoherent anti-scientific nonsense on climate change at length with New York Times reporters and editors Tuesday — and they totally fell for it.

Ignoring most of what he actually said, the Times ran a story, “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions,” which opens, “President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises … pledging to have an open mind about climate change.” (Emphasis added.)

Why does the Times say Trump has an “open mind” on climate? Because Trump said he has an “open mind” on climate. In fact, he said it six times in the span of a few minutes.

Pay no attention to the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA transition (and who is on the shortlist to run the EPA), the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists overseeing his transition for the departments of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who would be the fifth vote to block the EPA’s modest domestic climate plan.

And, whatever you do, pay no attention to what else Trump said in that interview (transcript here). Here he is on climate science:

“It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know…. they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists…. Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind.”

Seriously. He has an open mind, but he doubts scientists will ever know the truth about climate change, not to mention those “terrible” emails (which were in fact a true nothingburger, as seven independent inquiries concluded).

Here is Trump speaking to columnist Tom Friedman about climate deniers:

But a lot of smart people disagree with you. I have a very open mind. And I’m going to study a lot of the things that happened on it and we’re going to look at it very carefully. But I have an open mind.

Here is Trump explaining his view of the superstorms (like Sandy) that have hit New York City (Arthur Sulzberger Jr is the publisher):

SULZBERGER: Well, since we’re living on an island, sir, I want to thank you for having an open mind. We saw what these storms are now doing, right? We’ve seen it personally. Straight up.

FRIEDMAN: But you have an open mind on this?

TRUMP: I do have an open mind. And we’ve had storms always, Arthur.

SULZBERGER: Not like this.

TRUMP: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.

We’ve always had storms. And some day in the 1890s century was the hottest day ever? No, it actually wasn’t — and in any case it is the global trend that matters. As the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently tweeted:

No doubt that’s why Trump campaigned on zeroing out all climate research and, as the Guardian just reported, “Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’.”

But the Times insists you’re missing the whole point, which is that Trump was “pledging to have an open mind about climate change.”

You may have noticed a pattern whereby Trump quotes (or mangles) a climate science denial talking point and then says, “I have an open mind.” It’s almost like somebody told him to keep repeating that reassuring mantra whenever he dove into denial talking points too much, like when he said: “Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases, and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind.”

This is a brilliant rhetorical trick. Trump keeps repeating “open mind” not because he has one, but because that’s what he wants his listeners to come away with — no wonder some have called his tricks hypnosis or even Trumpnosis.

Now let’s go back to the part that excited so many:

FRIEDMAN: But are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?

TRUMP: I’m looking at it very closely, Tom. I’ll tell you what. I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change.

Do you really think Trump has an open mind on Paris — or is he just using that phrase for effect? Again, notice how he immediately goes from “open mind” to a completely false talking point: There are few things where there’s less division among scientists than climate change.

Scientists and journalists who actually read the interview themselves came away with a very different view than the Times:

See also the Washington Post’s analysis, “Trump’s new interview with the New York Times isn’t reassuring. It’s deeply alarming.” Or Peter Sinclair’s “Trump’s Climate Head Fake.”

Even hardcore climate denier Steven Milloy tweeted, “If you read the entire Trump-NYTimes interview, you’ll see claims of a Trump shift on climate are #FakeNews.”

When the deniers agree with the scientists on something, it must be a pretty sure thing. Open mind.