His response to the tragedy was almost too inhuman to be believed.
California is suffering unprecedented devastation from wildfires that have now killed 31 people, 29 in the Camp Fire raging north of Sacramento and two in the Woolsey fire near Los Angeles.
The fires have been advancing so fast that people have burned alive in their cars trying to escape. Many firefighters fought the blaze even as their own homes burned to the ground in the town of Paradise, which was mostly annihilated in what is now the most destructive fire in California history.
And Trump's response to this tragedy was almost too inhuman to be believed.
He lied about the cause of the fire so that he could blame its victims. He threatened to withhold federal aid as punishment. And he refused to acknowledge the victims or praise the firefighters until after he was publicly shamed by the head of the California firefighters union.
"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor," Trump tweeted at 3 a.m. on Saturday. "Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"
Trump's response was both callous and wildly incorrect on the facts, as California Professional Firefighters president Brian Rice made clear in a powerful statement condemning Trump's tweet.
"The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines," Rice said on Saturday.
Trump was also "dangerously wrong" to blame California's forest management policies for the fire, Rice said. The latest fires spread in populated areas, not forests — and what's more, Trump is the one responsible for defunding forest management in the state.
"Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography," Rice explained. "Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California."
Shortly after that, either Trump or a staffer who managed to wrest away control of his Twitter account posted a much less sociopathic response to the disaster, and urged Californians to heed evacuation warnings from officials.
More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Less than 12 hours later, however, Trump was at it again with another late-night tweet ranting about forest management.
Trump sent his two clean-up tweets when the death toll was at 11. But now that it's at 31, tied for the deadliest blaze in California's history, he has remained silent, but for a Monday morning tweet praising first responders without acknowledging the devastation or the death toll.
It's unheard of for California to have such a devastating wildfire as late as November.
But thanks to climate change, the state now faces a year-round fire season. California gets its rainfall in a deadly boom-and-bust cycle: lots of it in spring so that more vegetation grows, and then almost none in summer and autumn so that all that vegetation dries up and becomes a giant tinderbox.
Trump also denies that climate change is a problem, and has even called it a hoax. He refuses to do anything to reduce the carbon emissions that are making natural disasters like wildfires worse every year.
Trump doesn't care about the nearly 40 million Americans who live in California. He's pursuing policies that will get people killed, and he's mocking the dead while he does it.
Published with permission of The American Independent.