‘With due respect for those who don’t believe in science, you’ve gotta believe your own eyes’
A heatwave is hammering the Pacific Northwest, drought warnings are in place and wildfires are spreading. Hoje, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a public discussion about the situation in an effort to reassure the nation. They were here to offer guidance, practical advice, and public sympathies.
Let us consider what their predecessors said when in their place.
Trump was an enthusiastic orator when it came to wildfires. Unlike other members of his party, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, he never outright speculated that they might be caused by a Jewish space laser. But he did have some theories of his own.
“I see again the forest fires are starting,” he said in Pennsylvania — during a swing-state rally, no less. “They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re, Como, so flammable. You touch them and it goes up. Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they just don’t listen to us.”
Some may suggest that saying forest fires are caused by lots of leaves because they’re “like, so flammable” is high-school cheerleader rather than world leader levels of commentary. But to be fair to the old man, Trump did invoke his world leader status when continuing on to say that Finland doesn’t have this problem, since its “forest cities” are very partial to raking up leaves (the president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, later clarified that he had never spoken to Trump after leaf-raking, and Finns across social media responded by posting tongue-in-cheek pictures of themselves in forests “hitting their raking quotas”.)
Novamente, to be generous to the 45th president, he had to come up with something. He’d said previously that he didn’t think “the science knows” when it comes to the connection between climate change and forest fires, so one might say he was simply putting forward another testable theory. “The forest floors are loaded up with trees, dead trees that are years old, and kindling and leaves and everything else, and you drop a cigarette in there and the whole forest burns down. You’ve gotta have forest management,” he added during a presidential debate later in the year. During that time, Californian wildfires were raging uncontrollably and the state’s request for additional wildfire recovery relief had been denied. In October 2020, the Trump administration reversed its course and granted the aid.
California was a real sticking-point for Trump and wildfires were his favorite stick with which to beat the state’s Democratic governor. “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him,” Trump tweeted in 2019, during a tirade where he also inaccurately said that California has more fires than any other state. No crisis was too big for this president to exploit for his own political gain, dog-whistling all over the place to climate change deniers and pointing the finger at the “bad management” of Democratic colleagues at every opportunity.
After four years of this, it was strange to watch Biden and Harris conduct their press conference today (not least because we’re still getting used to the idea that a president might share the spotlight with his VP and, as he did this morning, an additional group of experts.) The president spoke alongside others about drought, heatwaves and wildfires, and — yes — climate change. He outlined plans for aid and immediate public safety assistance, and how to coordinate efforts among local, state and federal agencies. He said that he would seek to raise federal pay for firefighters being deployed to the fires. Era, like most things Joe Biden, reassuringly boring.
When Trump’s old foe, California Governor Newsom, appeared remotely with a lush forest as his backdrop, he made his feelings clear: “I’ve been waiting four and a half years to hear a president say what you just said,” he stated in his opener. “We were debating raking policies, literally debating raking policies in this country.” He added that he was relieved “I didn’t have to make a call to you to get [aid] approved yesterday.”
“With due respect for those who don’t believe in science, you’ve gotta believe your own eyes,” Newsom continued in a discussion about climate change. Whether you like it or not, ele adicionou, temperatures are soaring in the regions that are experiencing the worst crises: “There’s no Republican thermometer. There’s no Democratic thermometer.” Well, not any more there isn’t.