The devastating fires across California have killed dozens, and, horrifically, probably vastly more than that. Hundreds are missing. Thousands of courageous firefighters and pilots are putting their lives on the line each day to save our fellow Californians.
What was President Trump’s reaction?
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” the president observed. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Later, after what must have been an apoplectic White House staff reaction, Trump managed to send out what he should have sent earlier:
“Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”
Naturally, the president couldn’t resist making matters worse again with yet another baseless and heartless tweet: “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”
OK, Mr. President: here’s some smart.
The fires do not have a one-size-fits-all causation. Furthermore, the Camp Fire in Butte County began in the vicinity of Plumas National Forest, which, like 60 percent of California’s forests, is not managed by the state. The Woolsey Fire is a typical urban-interface fire that regularly plagues Southern California. Per Trump’s earlier observation about the August fires here in California, “water diversion” has nothing to do with efforts to contain this conflagration, either.
Reaction to the president’s remarks spread hotter and faster than the fires themselves.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that “at a time where people are facing utter disaster, to be making a statement like this, making a threat like this, just goes to show how little he understands the job he has, that he would be punitive at a time like this rather than coming to the defense of people facing the worst disaster of their lives.”
“This is a president who, more than any other, is punitive,” Schiff said. “He is only the president, I think in his view, of those who voted for him.”
California Professional Firefighters president Brian Rice blasted Trump’s remarks as “ill-informed, ill-timed, and demeaning.” Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters labeled the tweet “reckless and insulting.”
It was, and more.
As surviving Paradise residents lost their entire town, as Malibu residents fled for their lives on the Pacific Coast Highway, as Northern California choked on dense smoke, as Sacramentans lined up for N-95 masks at local fire stations because of “unhealthy” air conditions from the Camp Fire, the president of the United States turned yet another national disaster into a political sideshow intended to divide rather than unite and console victims.
“Too soon” is a phrase meant for comedy acts that play into a devastating event. President Trump’s too-soon tweets are no comedy; they are tragically inappropriate and pour accelerant on the broken hearts of a burning state.