NOAA Back Trump Over Scientists

The parent organization of the National Weather Service issued a statement Alabama and Dorian.

In a bizarre move, a federal agency has stepped in to defend an absurd tweet from the President, sacrificing its own credibility. The Washington Post:

The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has sided with President Trump over its own scientists in the ongoing controversy over whether Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated Alabama was in fact threatened by the storm at the time Trump tweeted Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA statement said that information provided to the president and the public between Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

The problem is that it just ain’t so:

The NOAA statement Friday makes no reference to the fact that when Trump tweeted that Alabama was at risk, it was not in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty,” which is where forecasters determine the storm is most likely to track. Alabama also had not appeared in the cone in days earlier, and no Hurricane Center text product ever mentioned the state.

The NOAA statement was unsigned, so it’s unclear who exactly issued it.

Altering official government weather forecasts is actually illegal. Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, which addresses false weather reports: “Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.” (The Weather Service is the modern version of the Weather Bureau.)

No one will be fined, much less imprisoned for this. Still, while this seems merely bizarre and silly on its face, it’s actually quite dangerous. We’ve now politicized the most basic of governmental functions, providing basic information necessary to protect public safety. Regardless of the personality or party of the occupant of the White House, the American people had every reason to believe government weather forecasts represented the best professional estimates available. No more.

And for what? Covering up a bizarre tweet from a narcissist?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Government, Science & Technology, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We’ve now politicized the most basic of governmental functions,

    Who’s this “we” you speak of?

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  2. Teve says:

    He’s so humble this morning:

    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump
    ·
    1h
    Thank you to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis for your very gracious and kind words in saying that without the help of the United States and me, their would have been many more casualties. I give all credit to FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard, & the brave people of the Bahamas..

    link

  3. dennis says:

    Good morning, James. I’m beginning to rethink the use of the collective “we.”

  4. Tony W says:

    My hope is that he continues talking about this nonstop for the next 15 months.

    Keep digging, Donnie.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @dennis: Fair enough. The nature of American politics, alas, is that any precedent, no matter how awful, becomes the norm. This sort of thing is unlikely to stop once Trump is out of the White House—although one would hope it wouldn’t be this blatantly obvious.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And speaking of politicizing governmental functions:

    Hutchinson Biehl is accused of trying to select peer reviewers based on whether they support Trump’s immigration policy or whether they are in favor of legalizing prostitution.

    Reuters first reported the complaint’s existence on Wednesday.

    Career DOJ employees submitted the complaint to the inspector general Aug 16 via their union local in DC, a unit of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

    “It has always been that peer reviewers were selected upon expertise and not upon political views,” AFSCME Local 2830 president Marilyn Moses told TPM. “We’ve asked for an investigation to find out whether or not [these allegations] are true and, second, whether she acted upon these things.”
    ……………………………………

    The problem began after Hutchinson Biehl convened a meeting with a group of staffers where the office’s grant-awarding process was discussed.

    At the meeting, Hutchinson Biehl allegedly announced to employees that she would start looking through prospective peer reviewers’ social media profiles for evidence that they dissented from Trump’s immigration policy or supported legalizing sex work.

    The OVC employees were so rattled by the encounter, Moses recalled, that they went to a career management staffer for clarification on Hutchinson Biehl’s comments. That staffer allegedly reiterated what Hutchinson Biehl – who took office in August 2017 – had said, leading them to begin speaking with the union.

    Hmmmm… I’m detecting a pattern here, not that this is anything new:

    The complaint would appear to mirror a similar scandal that occurred under the Bush Administration at a sister office of OVC – the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), also under the umbrella of DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.

    This is today’s GOP.

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  7. Mikey says:

    @Teve:

    and me

    I didn’t think two little words could piss me off so much on a sunny Saturday morning.

  8. dennis says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    From the link:

    The complaint name-checks Office for Victims of Crime Director Darlene Hutchinson Biehl, a former Montgomery, Alabama lifestyle writer and longtime crime victims advocate.

    This right here tells you all you need to know about the Trump administration. Just a continuous slather of non-qualified people selected for positions for which they have no experience. And before anyone gets his/her drawz bunched up in your crack, being a longtime crime victims advocate does NOT qualify one for directorship of the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of F-kg Justice.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: A lot of shady stuff happened during the Bush Admin* and it was followed by what had to be the cleanest, scandal free admin in my 60+ years on this planet. Mind you, Obama being a black man, he knew he had zero leeway with the GOP or the media and made sure that he and all in his admin scrupulously adhered to all the rules and regs, as even the slightest screw up would get blown all out of proportion (Benghazi anyone?). To the point of being a little too quick to pull the trigger, Shirley Sherrod being the obvious example.

    Mind you, we aren’t likely to get quite that lucky again but corruption becoming business as usual is not inevitable.

    *AG purges based on a lack of voter “fraud” investigations, cherry picking of intelligence to reinforce a desired result, my above referenced shenanigans and much more

    ETA and truth be told he wouldn’t have all that much leeway with DEMs either, never mind the outright obeisance trump gets from the GOP

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  10. Kathy says:

    It’s a cost saving measure. See, now instead of spending money on satellites, hurricane chasing airplanes, armies of meteorologists and analysts, expensive computers, etc., NOAA can just ask El Cheeto where he wants the hurricanes to hit.

    Then they just publish the maps, marked in black Sharpie.

  11. Teve says:

    @Kathy:

    Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has added a Trump-branded permanent marker to its web store, capitalizing on the Sharpie-gate drama and expanding the campaign’s culture war offerings that already include stick-it-to-the-liberals plastic straws.

    The marker, announced on Twitter this morning by campaign manager Brad Parscale, is the latest effort by the campaign to amplify and then commodify what could have been a relatively minor controversy.

    Story Continued Below

    “Buy the official Trump marker, which is different than every other marker on the market, because this one has the special ability to drive @CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy!” Parscale tweeted.

    politico

  12. dennis says:

    And, not to be completely off topic, remember these?

    Cato Institute: “10 Ways Obama Violated the Constitution during His Presidency.”
    National Review: “Obama Undermining Checks and Balances in Our Constitution.”
    Forbes: “President Obama’s Top 10 Constitutional Violations Of 2013.”
    CBS News: “Is Obama overstepping his bounds with executive actions?.”

    But not a peep about His Majesty . . .

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  13. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    See, now, that’s Trump showing he’s a lousy businessman. Oh, sure, he’ll sell some overpriced Sharpies. But he has millions of supporters eager to consume his shit, and he just flushes it away instead of packaging it for sale. Sad.

  14. Argon says:

    Not the first time NOAA has dealt with political pressure… Climate scientists were muzzled under Bush. Plus a number of forecasting functions were minimized so that commercial interests could sell their services without competition from the federal agency.

    Although this is possibly the first time they had to cave so cravenly to assuage a Commander in Chief’s vanity.

  15. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    As the subsequent posts from OzarkHillbilly and dennis show, the “we” for whom the shady behavior has become the norm is just a subset of the “we” who are impacted and there’s the rub. Obama can run an extremely clean shop, Republicans can respond with unprecedented obstructionism, Obama can use Executive Orders as a last resource and the Republicans can sell Obama’s actions as politicization of basic government. Then, “We” the People all get to live in this dysfunction every day.

    The asymmetry is glaring, but the norm is “bothsiderism.”

  16. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    Obama can run an extremely clean shop, Republicans can respond with unprecedented obstructionism, Obama can use Executive Orders as a last resource and the Republicans can sell Obama’s actions as politicization of basic government.

    I disagree only on the margins. Still, it was the increasing resort to EOs under Obama’s predecessors, including Dubya, that helped legitimate Obama pushing the envelop–which has helped legitimate Trump blowing the doors off the Constitution.

    Obama was better in every way than Trump but he helped make it easier for Trump. And, one would hope, Trump will be followed by someone better but Trump’s actions will be used to justify further eliding the Constitution’s checks and balances.

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  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dennis: At the warehouse I worked at while I was going to school, there was a saying:

    We? You got a mouse in your pocket or something?

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @dennis:

    …does NOT qualify one for directorship of the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of F-kg Justice.

    I don’t know, she seems to be pretty good a f-kg justice to me.

  19. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    I would agree that the erosion of the Constitution’s checks and balances has been a trend that began well before Trump rose to power. I would just argue that the causal factors of that erosion haven’t always been craven political calculations by each party in turn and in equal measure.

    I see a significantly worse bad actor and another actor attempting to countervail. I’m sure I have my own biases, but I believe an honest accounting of the last 3 decades in American politics would back me up.

  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    Even more disturbing: Trump is withholding military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to extort them into opening a criminal investigation of Biden.

  21. mattbernius says:

    Il Duce ha sempre ragione

    Again, that Trump lies about the smallest thing isn’t a shock. What is scary is how he has created an environment where everyone else then has to join in the lie or be expunged for disloyalty.

  22. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: okay, I read that as “Mussolini has always right”.

    6 mos of Duolingo has gone a long way! Though I still have a ways to go. 😀

  23. Roger says:

    @James Joyner:

    I wrote this before the election in 2016 to a Republican friend as part of a longer message trying (unsuccessfully) to convince him not to vote for Trump. I still think it’s about right:

    In 2009, the Republicans in Congress decided that they would cooperate with Obama on nothing, in an effort to block any achievement he might claim and deny him a second term. They looked at a man who received the largest number of votes ever received by a presidential candidate, who beat his opponent by 7% in the popular vote and a landslide in the electoral college, and chose to refuse to cooperate on anything. Some might have seen a mandate in those numbers, or at least acknowledged a divided country that needed a government that could work together. Republicans saw an opportunity to obstruct. Congress chose not to govern in order to stop Obama from governing, forgetting (or not caring) that our system offers the president other ways to implement his policy. Obama responded by using the powers he had as head of the executive branch to try to achieve his policy goals.

    Many Democrats praise Obama for this. I don’t, because, as I said before, power accretes, and power that flows to an institution tends to stay with that institution even after the current occupant leaves. The power Obama took to govern by executive fiat likely will stay with the office when he leaves, available to be used by, God forbid, President Trump. And I have no doubt that Trump will use every bit of power residing in the office of the presidency if we are foolish enough to let him obtain it.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Oh FFS Obama’s use of EO’s in no way, shape or form aided Trump. When has Trump ever relied on precedent? Did Obama make it possible for Trump to commit multiple acts of open corruption? No? Then I guess Trump figured that out all on his own. Just like he was not constrained by Obama’s example of honesty, probity or modesty.

    The person at fault for Obama’s use of EO’s is Mitch McConnell. The same #MoscowMitch who now refuses to act as anything but an enabler of corruption, hate-mongering and fascism.

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  25. Modulo Myself says:

    The GOP is the party of shit here. They went to lengths to keep black peoples’ votes from counting and they gave us Trump because they are Trump. That there’s no equivalence on the other side is just how life is unfair if you’re white and Christian and used to getting away with things. After Trump, it’s going to be endless amounts of We and Us, but man, there’s no way we are going back. And I do wonder what lessons older Americans believe younger Americans are taking from this one-sided debacle.

  26. JKB says:

    This is sad. Anyone with experience tracking hurricanes approaching Florida and in the Gulf can see precisely where that “sharpie” mark came from. Either someone was showing the extent of tropical storm force winds or the most likely shift of the track a day or so past 120 hrs. In addition, if you read the forecast discussions, you’d know that the models were all over the place and the key element was the blocking ridge to the north of Dorian. As it was, Dorian stalled over the Bahamas then slipped in the amplified trough behind that eroding ridge and so recurved without crossing Florida. But in the time period in question, that erosion was pure model projection and the forecasters always hedge their bets until they see real world indications.

    And the tropical storm force wind projects for a few forecasts during this time covered almost all of Alabama.

    Nothing was harmed by including Alabama. People should always rely on their local emergency management system, which is where evacuation orders, etc. originate. “Prepare, it appears it could be worse than expected” is just how these warnings are presented to the public. Especially with the mainstream media in full Armageddon hype mode as they were.

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  27. Teve says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The GOP is the party of shit here. They went to lengths to keep black peoples’ votes from counting and they gave us Trump because they are Trump

    in North Carolina and other places the Republicans apparently even made spreadsheets of how many black voters had which kinds of ID so they could write the rules to disqualify them.

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  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Slip of the thumb, I downvoted when I meant to upvote. I’ll blame the iPad if that’ll help, or maybe a two day out of date briefing. Yes, Obama pushed EOs as necessary to govern after Moscow Mitch made it clear he would refuse to carry out his duties. Trumpsky uses EOs because he has no idea how to work within the system, because as President* he thinks he’s supposed to govern by edict, and just for political show. To blame Obama for Trump’s behavior is either an irrational desire to excuse Trump or a blatant example of the Murc’s Law fallacy. Bothsides run rampant.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: That’s the most pathetic explanation so far. Silence would have been better.

    (I promise not to feed the troll for the rest of this thread.)

  30. Teve says:

    I said yesterday I’d bet anybody $10 that Trump wouldn’t stop talking about Alabama on Friday. Sadly nobody took me up 🙁

    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump
    ·
    59m
    The Failing New York Times stated, in an article written by Obama flunky Peter Baker (who lovingly wrote Obama book),”Even after the President forecast the storm to include Alabama.” THIS IS NOT TRUE. I said, VERY EARLY ON, that it MAY EVEN hit Alabama. A BIG DIFFERENCE…..

  31. wr says:

    @JKB: That is the most pathetic piece of bootlicking I’ve ever seen. At least the sycophants in the administration are doing it to keep their jobs or their power. You just piss away whatever tiny shred of credibility you might have for nothing.

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Exactly who do you think we are anyway? As one of my friends is inclined to say “I may have fallen off a turnip truck, but it wasn’t yesterday, and I didn’t land on my head.” 😛

  33. Teve says:

    WaPo says it’s got emails from top NOAA brass telling scientists and staffers not to contradict what Trump said.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Congress chose not to govern in order to stop Obama from governing, forgetting (or not caring) that our system offers the president other ways to implement his policy. Obama responded by using the powers he had as head of the executive branch to try to achieve his policy goals.

    Many Democrats praise Obama for this. I don’t, because, as I said before, power accretes, and power that flows to an institution tends to stay with that institution even after the current occupant leaves.

    So what would you suggest he should have done? Just sat there and twiddled his thumbs? The irony of all of this is how low the trash in the White House has set the bar…how Republicans will howl when a Democratic president works with what Trump is giving him/her…the same thing you accuse Obama of doing…

    And the tropical storm force wind projects for a few forecasts during this time covered almost all of Alabama.

    Nothing was harmed by including Alabama.

    This is sad…

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    Nothing was harmed by including Alabama.

    Except for the collective reputations for excellent science based forecasts of the NOAA and it’s agencies the NHC, the NWS, and every one else under that acronym.

    PS: I love the 3 hate votes @OzarkHillbilly: No arguments of rebuttal, just a simple vote of head in the sand denial of truth.

  36. @JKB: Why defend Trump on this? He made a mistake when he included Alabama last weekend. Yes, at one point it was possible that Alabama would be impacted–but that was days before Trump’s statements.