By virtue of its demanding nature, the job of president of the United States requires a big ego. But an ego that is expansive enough to override a White House occupant's obligations to a national constituency is not what you want in a head of state.
Which brings us to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Nowhere is his oversized ego more graphically on display than in his treatment of environmental concerns. When Trump deals with these matters, it tends to be all about him. If by coincidence, any benefits should accrue to the general public, so much the better.
Citizen Trump is no different from other politicians in that he vows non-negotiable fealty to clean air and clean water. Yet at the same time, he denounces global warming as a hoax perpetrated by China to undermine our economy. He also pledges to cut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget to the bone and would oppose a carbon tax.
It is a good bet that contrived ignorance is behind his misguided rejection of a global warming threat, a robust EPA, and a carbon tax. He undoubtedly knows better. Personal ambition, however, has moved him to pander to the jaundiced environmental views of the party's hard core conservative base, a faction of pivotal importance in the Republican presidential primary.
Trump has had unkind words for wind energy facilities because of their interference with the panoramic views from some of his golf courses. Speaking of his golf courses (he owns 15 of them), all have been built according to his whims, which can be hit or miss from an environmental perspective.
His golf course bordering the Potomac River just outside the nation's capital was clearly a miss. Trump cut down 450 mature trees over a mile and a quarter stretch to create an unobstructed view. In doing so, he eliminated a buffer that stabilized the soil. Without the trees, sediment flowed into the river, adversely impacting the drinking water quality for five million people. The controversy he created remains unresolved.
In Scotland, Trump constructed a golf course over a nature preserve, destroying valuable sand dunes in the process. He also contested in Scottish court the plans for a nearby offshore wind energy project, again for aesthetic reasons. (Trump lost the case.)
Trump's self-centered, tone-deaf stance towards environmental matters takes some bizarre turns. Here is a guy who complained about water use restrictions during a drought because they prevented him from washing his hair properly in the shower.
Trump's ego spurs him to put down his fellow human beings at the drop of a hat, so imagine his condescension towards the animal kingdom. He once expressed doubt that clumsy, slow moving manatees were aware they were alive. Woe then to the manatee, or any other creature for that matter, that would get in the way of one of a President Trump's "deals".
Ever the mercenary showman, Trump became very upset when Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus phased out elephants in response to criticisms of inhumane treatment.
Let's just say that the federal Endangered Species Act and other animal protection laws would be at great risk in a Trump Administration.
A responsible political leader should possess sufficient conscientiousness to subordinate self-interest to national interest when the two clash.
Unsettlingly, Donald Trump has given no indication he could meet this standard.