The President of the United States is disturbingly missing in action from the biggest disaster unfolding in the country the massive wildfires burning in the West.
Both Republicans and Democrats need to ask the all-important question: where is Trump? The question needs to be asked because of Donald J. Trump’s (R-New York) propensity to travel for almost any other reason.
The President can fly out to almost any Republican campaign rally, jet across the world to meet with the leader of a fifth-rate power (North Korea), and travel to such questionable events as the opening of a Chinese-owned factory that might not create any jobs in Wisconsin.
Yet he is unable to travel to California, or Colorado, or elsewhere to meet with fire victims or firefighters. Some of those fire victims undoubtedly earned the scorn of friends, family, and neighbors for voting for the President, yet he has abandoned them.
Does President Trump Value Climate Change Denial more than his Supporters?
Cynics will say that the President does not want to call attention to Climate Change, which casts doubt upon his political program. The prevailing theory is that the high temperatures fueling the fires are caused by global warming created by greenhouse gases.
If that is true it makes Trump look reckless, ignorant, stupid, cynical, corrupt, and incompetent. The fires make Trump’s agenda of Climate-Change denial and fossil-fuel promotion look dangerously close to treason.
To make matters worse, Democrats can easily charge that Trump values big money campaign donors; such as the Koch Brothers, more than average Americans. Republicans should be scared because the President is handing Democrats a readymade issue – if they are willing to take advantage of it.
Where are the Democrats?
Before they bash the President, Democrats need to ask why their leaders are absent from the fire lines?
Is Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) now the leader of the Democratic Party? Governor Moonbeam seems to be the only politician discussing the fire catastrophe.
Why are potential Presidential candidates; like U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Kamala Harris (D-California), U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Hillary Clinton (D-New York), absent from the fire scenes? Their presence would make Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate, look very bad.
Does Trump Only Care about Red State Republicans
The problem with the Climate Change denial thesis is that Trump went out of his way to travel to two potentially Climate-Change-linked disasters last year. The President and First Lady almost immediately showed up in Florida and Houston after hurricanes there in September 2017.
Donald and Melania even made the questionable gesture of handing out food to Hurricane victims. Such strategic compassion is a heartless publicity stunt that can easily backfire. Trump supporters should google the name Marie Antoinette and the phrase “let them eat cake” to see how destructive such public generosity can be.
An obvious criticism that can be made here is that Trump went out of his way to visit Red State voters who supported him. Texas and Florida voted for the President, California and Colorado voted for Hillary Clinton (D-New York). Don’t Trump voters in California and Colorado; who are a despised minority, deserve to know that their President cares about them?
The Donald might be severely damaging the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) chances in Colorado and California, by not appearing. Republican candidates in this fall’s gubernatorial and congressional races might lose as a consequence of the President’s actions.
A fatal outcome for the GOP would be Republicans deciding their voters do not count and not going to the polls. Trump is sending the destructive message that the President; and by inference the GOP itself, only cares about Republicans in Red States. Disturbingly, Trump might be suppressing his own party’s votes with his behavior.
Trump Needs to Explain his Actions
The President needs to either go to the fire areas or at least explain his absence.
There are many excellent reasons for the President to stay away from the fire lines. His presence might interfere in firefighting efforts and there would be security concerns. The crowds Trump attracts would put both protestors and his supporters in danger from mass shootings or bombs.
If there is cause for the Donald’s failure to appear he needs to tell voters what it is. A bad explanation would at least show respect. Silence displays nothing but contempt.
Insult is added to injury by the President’s childish Twitter feud with LeBron James. The Donald can respond to a basketball player but say nothing about catastrophes afflicting his own supporters. That makes both the President and the Grand Old Party look stupid and racist.
Even if the President cannot appear in person, perhaps he might appear by video. An interesting idea would be to have Trump Skype or Tweet firefighters and victims.
Another would be to do some interviews for local television in cities like Redding or Colorado Springs. A series of video town halls with fire victims might enable the president to reach out to them without interfering in firefighting or creating security threats.
Will Failure to Address Climate Change Hurt Trump?
History shows that President Donald J. Trump’s failure to address a serious issue like Climate Change can be fatal politically.
Back in 1860 and 1861, President James Buchanan (D-Pennsylvania) refused to address the issues of slavery and succession. The result was the formation of the Confederacy and the Civil War. Likewise during the 1850s successive Democratic presidents and Congresses refused to deal with the question of slavery.
Slavery and succession were ignored out of the fear of offending powerful Democratic supporters. The so called “Slave Power” of wealthy Southern plantation owners. Much as Trump ignores Climate Change for fear offending fossil fuel interests and coal miners.
A result of that was Democrats did not control the White House and both houses of Congress again for 33 years until 1893. No Democrat was elected to two consecutive Presidential terms for 60 years (until Woodrow Wilson in 1916).
How Inattention can destroy a Presidency
Many chief executives have destroyed their presidencies by refusing to deal with problems. Herbert Hoover (R-California) effectively wrecked the Republican Party’s electoral chances for a generation by refusing to deal with the Great Depression.
One of Hoover’s most destructive blunders was his refusal to ask for federal aid for help Depression victims. Hoover lost the 1932 Presidential election to Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York) an aggressive proponent of such aid.
Likewise, Roosevelt or FDR, refused to acknowledge the menace of Japanese militarism until the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor. FDR refused to build up military defenses in the Philippines, tried to suppress news about a Japanese attack on the US Navy gunboat USS Panay, and ignored his own admirals’ warning not to move the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor. FDR’s career survived Pearl Harbor because the United States won World War II, a conflict the President helped trigger with his inattention.
Both Inaction and Action can be fatal to a Presidency
Other Presidents have had their careers destroyed by inaction. Jimmy Carter (D-Georgia) killed his chances of a second term by refusing to acknowledge the Soviet Union as America’s mortal enemy.
Carter ignored blatant Communist aggression until the Russians invaded Afghanistan. That cleared the way for the staunch Anti-Communist Ronald Reagan (R-California) to trounce him in 1980.
Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) spent the 1990s ignoring terrorism. Clinton only escaped the effect of his failure to eliminate Al Qaeda because he was safely out of office on September 11, 2001.
In Trump’s defense we should note that overreaction can be as fatal to a President as inaction. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) killed his prospects for a second term by overreacting to the Communist threat in Vietnam. George W. Bush (R-Texas) did serious damage to his own reputation and the Republican Party with his overreaction questionable security threat in Iraq.
History proves that Trump has embarked upon a dangerous course of inaction. With his inaction on Climate Change, the Donald might be sowing the seeds of his own destruction and killing his party’s electoral chances.