The anti-science bias of the Trump administration is perfectly evident in its environmental policies, particularly the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate accord, so it’s no surprise to learn that President Trump has still not nominated anyone to fill the role of the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
According to the medical website StatNews.com, however, there may be another reason the post isn’t filled. Bill Gates turned it down.
The Microsoft founder may have given enough of his money away to have fallen to the number two spot on Forbes’ magazine list of the richest people on earth, but he’s still got enough money ($90 billion or so) — and enough sense — to not be tempted by Trump’s offer to become the president’s science advisor.
Gates has met with the president before their meeting last month which focused on global health security, but this is the first time the subject of joining the Trump team has come up.
Gates was trying to convince Trump to put American muscle behind scientific innovation, such as the idea of developing a universal flu vaccine. They held, as Gates described it, “the longest conversation about universal flu vaccine that the president’s ever had,” a notion that at face value couldn’t possibly not be true.
“You should associate yourself with American innovation. Wouldn’t you love to have the universal flu vaccine be something that really got kicked off and energized by you?” Gates recalled asking Trump.
Trump responded positively to the idea and immediately got Scott Gottlieb, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, on the phone. Gates recalls the president relaying his conversation about a new weapon in the fight against a future global pandemic to the FDA commissioner by saying:
“Hey, Gates says there’s a universal flu vaccine. Is that crazy?”
Later in their discussion, Gates tried to tell Trump in a nice way that he really needed to fill the position of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy leader.
“I mentioned: ‘Hey, maybe we should have a science adviser,” the Microsoft founder says he told the president.
“He said: Did I want to be the science adviser?”
The unexpected offer surprised the billionaire who remembers telling Trump:
“That’s not a good use of my time.”
Gates is still not sure whether the president’s offer was real or not.
“I didn’t put him to the test, whether that was a serious thing or not. He probably himself didn’t know if he was serious. It was a friendly thing. He was being friendly,” the software billionaire said.
Having Bill Gates as a presidential science advisor certainly is not a bad idea, as unlikely a possibility as it may seem. It would indubitably raise the average IQ around the White House considerably beyond where it currently sits. However, there are surely many qualified scientists deserving of the job who have the expertise and could use the money a lot more than Bill Gates needs it at this point in his life.
Why does one get the sense, however, that with this administration, anyone who brought up the idea of finally filling the vacant science advisor position would be offered the job on the spot?
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.