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Joseph Sabino Mistick: We need leaders who trust facts, not their gut |

Joseph Sabino Mistick: We need leaders who trust facts, not their gut

| Saturday, December 15, 2018 7:03 p.m
The Washington Post
President Donald Trump debates with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., right, as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Oval Office Dec. 11.

When Donald Trump sat down with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the White House last week, there was enough political theater to satisfy everyone.

What started as a photo opportunity for the media quickly became a squabble. The president threatened to shut down the government if the Democrats did not vote with Republicans to give him billions of tax dollars for his wall on the Mexican border.

“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government, absolutely,” he said.

Trump’s loyal supporters love it when he talks like that. As the pundits say, it appeals to his base. Still, most folks who live in the real world know that ultimatums, although dramatic, rarely solve anything.

But, there was one suggestion made at the White House fracas that could get us back on track. It has no sizzle. It is an old idea, but it has not been used for a couple of years, so it seems new again.

It came late in the discussion and was proposed calmly, so it hardly broke through the cross-talk. And, it made none of the highlight films of the meeting that dominated cable news afterwards.

“We have to have an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent and how effective it is,” Pelosi said.

If Mexico was going to pay for the wall, as Trump repeatedly promised, the facts might not have mattered as much to some Americans. But, since it is our $5 billion, everybody should want some evidence that a wall will actually do the job.

Trump is often aggressively short on facts, and proudly so. He likes to go with his gut on big issues, trusting his instincts above all else.

In November, he told The Washington Post that he was unhappy with the Federal Reserve over the higher interest rates that he believes have led to GM’s proposed layoffs and downturns on Wall Street.

“They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me,” Trump said.

In the same interview, saying that he does not believe the scientists, he rejected his own administration’s report that global warming is increasing the impact of natural disasters around the country.

“One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” Trump said.

There was always something attractive about those oil wildcatters who trusted their gut and gambled fortunes on a hunch that there was oil in the ground. It was their money, and that was OK.

In 2015, Fortune listed just a few of Trump’s business failures, including two casinos, a mortgage company, an airline service, a board game, vodka, steaks and a magazine. He trusted his gut and lost his money, and that’s OK.

But, government uses OPM — “Other People’s Money,” our money — and we cannot afford leaders who spend it on home remedies and gut feelings not rooted in fact.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at

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