A startling environmental impact statement published in July largely slipped under the radar of the dramatic summer news cycle.
The study, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, concluded that global temperatures would rise 7 degrees by the end of the century. As the Washington Post points out, that projection is likely to have catastrophic consequences: from extreme heat waves around the globe to parts of the US, like Manhattan and Miami, being underwater.
But the most startling part of the paper, as the Post points out, is that the administration concludes that there's no way to prevent the future disaster, so there's no point in pursuing higher federal fuel-efficiency standards for motor vehicles built after 2020. The Trump administration has decided to freeze environmental standards for cars and light trucks produced after 2020.
"While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket," the Post observes.
In a Rolling Stone op-ed, journalist Matt Taibbi highlights the nihilistic stance inherent in that position.
"A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism," Taibbi writes.
The administration's "screw-it-all mentality," as Taibbi puts it, extends to all matters of statecraft. From appointing administrators devoted to dismantling the organizations they're heading (such as the original EPA appointee, Scott Pruitt) to neglecting to assign ambassadors to tearing up multiple international agreements.
"Trump fired dozens upon inauguration and to this day still has 34 vacancies. We have no ambassador in South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico. We’re a ghost state with nukes," Taibbi notes.
Taibbi explains why so many political pundits have trouble processing Trump nihilism.
"From Day One of Trump’s campaign, pundits have reached for traditional political explanations to describe both his behavior and his appeal. Because we’re trained to talk in terms of left and right, progress and reaction, we tried to understand him in those terms," Taibbi says.
"But Trump sold something more primal. His core message was relentless, hounding negativity, lambasting audiences with images of death and disaster."
Unlike the hopeful message proffered by most candidates, Trump presented his supporters a far more hopeless vision of the world, embodied in part by Trump himself.
"Obese and rotting, close enough to the physical end himself (and long ago spiritually dead), Trump essentially told his frustrated, pessimistic crowds that America was doomed anyway, so we might as well stop worrying and floor it to the end," Taibbi notes.
"If that meant a trade war, environmental catastrophe, broken alliances, so be it. “Let’s just get this shit over with,” is how Trump’s unofficial campaign slogan was described in the show Horace and Pete, one of the few outlets to pick up on Trump’s Freudian death-wish rhetoric."
With destruction as his motto, the President has dismantled norms and policies domestically and abroad.
"Trade deals, environmental accords, the EU, NATO, he’s undercut all of them, while ripping government in half like a phone book," he writes.
Ultimately, under Trump America has become a sort of death cult.
"The broader electoral pitch is just an evil version of every nuclear-age dance tune ever, “99 Luftballoons” or “1999.” The world is ending, so fuck it, let’s party. As crazy as it is, it’s a seductive message for a country steeped in hate and pessimism. Democrats still don’t understand it."
"Trump’s turning America into a death cult, with us as involuntary members," Taibbi concludes.