Column: Fake news or the future? Steve Lopez imagines an escalating spat between Trump and California


Living in California in the Trump era is like being in a movie inspired by “Groundhog Day,” with each day a little worse than the last.

You wake up and he’s coming after us again, tweeting, taunting, twisting the truth.

Are we living in a dream, is this a hallucination, a nightmare?


What follows is what they call “fake news.” But how far off is this from today’s surreal reality? Could it be tomorrow’s news a day early?

You be the judge.

This just in:

Homeland Security officials in California have been ordered by the Trump administration to investigate the president’s claim that at least half the state’s raging infernos were set by illegal immigrants.

“California’s open-border policies have come home to roost as BAD HOMBRES set fire to the state,” Trump wrote in an early morning tweet. “Need that WALL the Democrats REFUSE to fund. INCREDIBLE!”

In a statement from the office of California Gov. Jerry Brown, the governor said he had run out of statements. In a later tweet, Brown wrote: “I thought Mexico was going to pay for the wall.”


Trump provided no evidence for his claim, but told Fox News that “excellent” sources have informed him of a conspiracy in which “the Hispanics” set fires near California housing developments so they will be hired to haul away torched trees and brush, then be hired again to plant new gardens.

“Some of these people are more intelligent than you might give them credit for. Probably smarter than the extremely low I.Q. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the DUMB Laker LeBron James,” Trump told Fox News, later clarifying his remarks to say he meant to call both of them idiots.

The president went on to say:

“These border crashers vote illegally for LOSER politicians, including crooked Hillary, and believe me, they’re committing crimes like you wouldn’t believe. When California burns TO THE GROUND, it can blame its own bad immigration and environmental policies. Believe me, that state is so out of control, they’ve got rivers that empty straight into the ocean! Where else does that happen?”

A source in Brown’s office quoted the governor as saying:

“I can’t believe I ran for president three times and got crushed like a grape but this numbskull is living in the White House.”

MORE: California’s attorney general is waging war against Trump. These are the battlefronts »

As the fire death toll mounted and hundreds of people lost their homes, firefighters worked around the clock while California officials scratched their heads over Trump’s claims. They said there has been no shortage of water to battle blazes, and even if there were, an emergency pipeline has been hooked up to siphon water from melted glaciers down to California.

Trump also tweeted, “Must tree clear to stop fire from spreading.”

It was unclear what the president meant until his administration released a plan to chop down Los Padres National Forest and half of Yosemite. A Trump spokesperson denied a claim by a White House source that the lumber would be used to build the border wall, and that Trump would force Mexico to pay for it by imposing a 50% tariff on all Jose Cuervo products.

“The tequila tariff is FAKE NEWS by disgusting enemies of the people!!!” Trump tweeted during a brief break from making conflicting statements about everything, including whether his wonderful son colluded with Russian officials to torpedo Hillary Clinton. “But maybe it’s not such a bad idea.”

Meanwhile, less than two hours after news broke of the Trump plan to deforest California, First Lady Melania Trump tweeted to say she will be arriving in Los Angeles later this week to plant trees, drink as many margaritas as possible and hang out at one of LeBron James’ pizza restaurants.

“I don’t think this is a marriage so much as a book deal for Melania,” a publishing executive said in explaining why she hasn’t moved out. “The longer she stays with him, the higher the price for a tell-all.”

Following Trump’s comments about the cause of the state’s deadly fires, California education officials were meeting in emergency session to rev up mindfulness training for all K-12 teachers.

“A student who is told by the president of the United States that man-made global warming is a hoax and that California’s progressive mileage and emission standards are ridiculous — in the midst of record-high heat and historic firestorms — brings a great deal of stress into the classroom,” said a high-ranking education official.

“We think it’s important that students devote the first hour of each day to meditation and calmness coaching, particularly the thousands of children who are dropped off in cars powered by vegetable oil and static electricity,” said the official. “The next three hours of the school day will be spent on the science of sustainability, with an emphasis on debunking popular Trump-ally views that global warming, if it exists, is caused by volcanoes, sun spots and flatulence.”

Some California education officials are also advocating for six hours weekly of gun control education. That’s in response to this week’s news that in the six months since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting left 17 people dead, Trump’s school safety commission has actively limited or suppressed discussion of gun control.

“President Trump has a buddy — a talk show host — who insisted the Sandy Hook slaughter that took the lives of 20 children was staged by actors,” said the state education official. “If we don’t accelerate conflict resolution training within our mindfulness academies, we might as well all move to Texas and join the NRA.”

In a tweet, President Trump wrote that he misspoke when he said earlier this year that teachers should be armed.

“What I meant to say, and it should have been obvious to everyone, was that teachers, custodians and crossing guards should ALL be armed,” Trump wrote. “Automatic weapons are extremely effective, but what ever happened to bazookas?”

By midday Tuesday, California’s attorney general had filed an additional 15 lawsuits against the Trump administration, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection began tree clearing at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Across the state, sales of Jose Cuervo spiked in anticipation of a possible tariff. The city of San Francisco declared itself a tequila tariff sanctuary city, with free shots for everyone who can prove they’re undocumented.

Trump’s repeated attacks on California, meanwhile, have created gantlets at supermarket entrances, with voters asked to sign initiatives that would give California back to Mexico, make it part of Hawaii or make the state a nation unto itself.

A spokesman, speaking on behalf of Brown, said:

“Haven’t we already done that?”

Get more of Steve Lopez’s work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez