Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom’s body language Saturday at the site of the devastating Camp Fire at Paradise couldn’t have been more clear.
The newly-minted leader of the Trump resistance stood stiffly, hands in pockets, as cameras captured his appearance with President Donald Trump, who just two months ago called Newsom a “clown” over his positions on immigration.
Gov. Jerry Brown stood by, mouth pursed.
In Malibu, site of the Woolsey Fire, President Trump praised both Brown and Newsom.
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“Come here,” he said to Newsom, extending his hand. Gracious yet surely sensitive to the optics of the situation, Newsom shook the president’s hand and slapped his back.
What gives? Aren’t these two governors the president’s sworn enemies?
Well, yes and no.
The president’s rhetoric heats up quickly regardless of his target, be it Newsom, Brown, a foreign leader, Rosie O’Donnell or another nemesis-of-the-day.
Brown and Newsom have been fierce and pointed critics of the Trump administration, particularly with regard to environmental protections. Brown has avoided direct name-calling, but did say he thought Trump could be remembered as a “liar, criminal, (or a) fool” over his environmental policies. And Brown spokesman Evan Westrup has called out the president’s “inane, uninformed tweets” on the California fire disaster.
President Trump has alternated between calling climate change a “hoax” and acknowledging it’s real, though he never quite gets to saying it’s related to human activity. On “Fox News Sunday,” Trump asserted that climate change was “a little bit” of a factor in the fires, but went on to blame forest management techniques.
When asked over the weekend whether the trio had discussed climate change as a causative factor, Brown — ever the diplomat — muttered sotto voce: “Obliquely.”
To his credit, when not tweeting that he’ll pull federal aid unless California engages in forest management practices more to his liking, Trump has sent the help this state has needed, and not just in this instance.
The Trump administration granted nine federal disaster declaration requests Brown submitted in 2017 and 2018 as deadly wildfires and storms ravaged the state.
President Trump “has been pretty good about helping us out in disasters,” Brown has said.
“When you look at some of the disaster declarations under Trump, from the fires and floods in Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara last year, the record will show that there has been a quick turnaround of federal assistance,” noted H.D. Palmer, the state Department of Finance spokesman.
It’s good to see President Trump can come to California without an on-the-ground verbal barrage — his suggestion that “raking” the forests could prevent future fires notwithstanding. The president of Finland, whom Trump cited for that suggestion, denies he said any such thing.
“Now is a time to pull together for the people of California,” Brown said. We couldn’t agree more.
Resisting the Trump administration’s policies is one thing, but throwing napalm on a tinder-dry political environment is something else altogether. Let’s hope both Gov.-elect Newsom and President Trump can at least avoid further inflaming their precarious relationship.
So far, so good. California doesn’t need any more firestorms, environmental or political.