Editorial: Trump tweets while California burns

Flames erupt from the River fire in Lake County, Calif., on Aug 2.
(Mark McKenna / ZUMAPRESS.COM / TNS)

Some Donald Trump tweets are so bizarre that you have to puzzle over them and inject a bit of sense into them before you can finally dismiss them as the wingnut drivel that they are. So it is with the president’s recent tweets on California’s fire and water.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean,” Trump thumbed on Sunday.

He kept at it on Monday.

“Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water — Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.”


It almost sounds like he’s saying that California is burning because all the water that otherwise would be flowing out of fire hoses is instead being flushed into the sea. Or perhaps he’s arguing that the state would be lush and drought-free if only we stopped the rivers from running. Or something.

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The argument is so weird that even his supporters in the state’s agriculture industry appear mystified.

What San Joaquin Valley farmers do want is more delivery of river water to their crops. They oppose recommendations by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers in order to stem environmental damage caused by decades of water diversions for agricultural and urban use. Maybe Trump thought he was sticking up for his agricultural allies.

And isn’t it just like Trump to refer to water being “diverted” from rivers to the ocean. That’s where rivers flow — to the ocean. Diversion is when water is removed from its natural course and instead used for irrigation and urban faucets. Californians survive on a moderate level of that diversion but will perish if we overdo it.

There has been no shortage of water for firefighters. Much of the state is in flames because of record heat and drought — a phenomenon that scientists say is at least in part a result of human-caused climate change.


Trump calls climate change a hoax — an invention, he has said, of the Chinese government to undermine U.S. manufacturing. He rejects the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are making the planet hotter.

Now, adding injury to insult, he is seeking to freeze fuel economy standards and to revoke the Clean Air Act waiver that allows California to require stricter standards on tailpipe emissions than the federal government’s.

Trump ignores climate change and tweets his absurd musings about environmental laws and water at a time when fires have killed nine people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and caused the evacuation of thousands. It reminds us of someone else, way back in Roman days. If only Trump had a fiddle instead of Twitter.

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