President Trump needs more distractions.
On Tuesday, court filings by the legal team of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller is alleging that he’d shared 2016 polling data with Russian intelligence.
Trump’s address to the nation from the Oval Office later that evening was full of stolen internet meme-speak and delivered with all the convincing vigor of a funeral dirge.
To be perfectly fair, the same can be said of the response, with its bizarre optics, of Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Maybe get somebody who isn’t AARP-eligible to chime in after 9pm in the future, ok, guys?
So President Trump arose on Wednesday, ready to take a run at a fresh controversy.
Today’s target is California, still reeling from the 2018 wild fire that devastated the northern part of the state.
The November fire was the deadliest in the state’s history, claiming 85 lives and destroying thousands of structures.
The overall cost was estimated at over $16 billion.
At the time, Trump all but blamed the victims by suggesting that improper forest management was the cause of the fire. He threatened to withhold federal funding, as a result. He did, however, eventually give in and release federal funds.
On one visit to Paradise, California, a community practically wiped out by the fire, the president gave a bizarre account of having spoken with the president of Finland, and touted their forest management:
Trump said: “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”
Meanwhile, the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, seemed confused by Trump’s assertion.
Finnish social media users mocked him with photos of themselves holding rakes.
Niinistö later suggested that raking was not mentioned. He said that while discussing the fires in California, he told Trump that Finland was a nation of forests, and that they prevented forest fires with a good surveillance system.
So now Trump is back to those forest fires, and he’s turning the screws on California.
With a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump declared that the days of helping out California when disaster strikes are going to end.
"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen," Trump tweeted.
"Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money," he added, calling it a "disgraceful situation in lives & money."
This is where I feel compelled to point out that California authorities have suggested that climate change has made these disasters worse.
I don’t buy it. It certainly wasn’t the cause.
But then again, neither do I buy Trump’s position that poor forest management is the cause. Suggesting that raking the forests would mean forest fires would never happen, and using that as an excuse to withhold disaster funds from fellow Americans is hyperbole most foul.
Meanwhile, FEMA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, can’t say a whole lot. They’re currently without funding, due to the partial government shutdown, which is closing in on its third week.
Of course, Trump’s congenital lack of spelling prowess has made this one ripe for ridicule, as much as outrage.
And of course, there’s a point for sincere speculation, as to what may have prompted this sudden attack on California:
Coincidence, I'm sure.