One after another, the heads of the top intelligence agencies in the U.S. government told Congress, under oath, that Russia had directly, aggressively interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections in an effort to help Donald Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton. They also warned that Russia will undoubtedly do so again, against whatever party they choose to target.
They aren’t alone in those warnings. Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged as far back as October that Russia had interfered in our elections. “We all knew this before the election,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in March. “We all knew, Russia was trying to meddle with our election.”
“I believe it,” says U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida. “Not only do I believe it, I know it. Almost everybody else does.”
Yet that’s not quite true, not by a long shot. For example, President Trump doesn’t believe it, a fact that Rubio dismisses as unimportant. According to Rubio, it doesn’t matter that the man who has sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” doesn’t believe that the Constitution is under attack from abroad.
That claim makes no sense: How can the president protect us against a threat that in his eyes doesn’t exist?
You know who else doesn’t believe it? According to the latest CBS News poll, 50 percent of Republicans still don’t believe that Russia interfered in our election. Another 28 percent are willing to concede interference, but insist that Trump wasn’t the intended beneficiary. Just 14 percent of Republicans are willing to state that the Russians interfered, and that they did so in hopes of helping Trump.
That’s just extraordinary.
I understand the temptation, I guess. Once you acknowledge that Russia interfered on behalf of Trump, you open the door to all sorts of other uncomfortable thoughts and questions that you don’t want to have to address. It’s just easier not to go there at all, to slam the door in the face of reality and refuse to listen.
You see the same mindset on the issue of climate change. “I mean, there’s this … idea that science is just absolutely settled, and if you don’t believe it’s settled then somehow or another you’re a Neanderthal. That is so inappropriate from my perspective,” says Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “I think if you’re going to be a wise, intellectually engaged person, being a skeptic about some of these issues is quite all right.”
Perry is a man most famous for having forgotten the name of the agency he now heads, and for his appearance on “Dancing With The Stars.” His two predecessors at the Energy Department were both nuclear physicists of some renown. Both accepted the reality of climate change driven by excessive levels of carbon in the atmosphere. When I want advice on climate from a wise, intellectually engaged person, I know which source I would choose.
Meanwhile, in Paris today, it’s expected to approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the first day of summer. In Portugal, an intense heat wave contributed to a freak forest fire than killed more than 60 people, many of them trapped in their cars by the swift-moving blaze. In Phoenix it’s supposed to hit 120 today, so hot that afternoon flights are being grounded because the hot air will be too thin to support flight.
And in the latest edition of Nature, a peer-reviewed study warns that by 2100, three-quarters of human beings will be exposed to at least 20 consecutive days a year of deadly heat waves, compared to 30 percent in today’s climate.
Whether you wish to believe them or not, these things are happening. It’s like being told that termites are eating away the foundation of your home, but refusing to believe it because you don’t want to pay for the cost of treatment. It’s like a business owner who is told that her accountant is embezzling money, but who refuses to believe it because then she would have to fire him. It’s like a husband or wife confronted by multiple eyewitness accounts of a philandering spouse, but insisting that all is fine.
Yeah, you could live your life or run your business that way … for a while. But eventually the house will collapse or the business will fold or the spouse will run off to Tahiti, taking along the contents of the bank account. The bill comes due. It always comes due, and it will be paid.