President Donald Trump's latest reaction to wildfires ravaging California has implications for the whole nation.
As before, he is threatening to cut off aid to the state.
As before, that threat is most likely empty.
As before, he has put a matter of governance in a uniquely peevish light.
As before, his rationale is half-explained through fact-challenged tweets.
As before, he's attacking a state government because it is Democratic-run.
As before, he won't hear of any possible role played by climate change.
As before, his allegations sound like projections.
As before, he has managed to make Russia part of the story.
On Sunday, the impeachment-vexed president turned from denouncing the big inquiry into his conduct to trying to scorch California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Newsom, he said, "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."
"Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more … "
Since locals note that these wildfires aren't forest fires, Trump's "clean-the-floors" solution is irrelevant.
This same conversation took place two years ago, when Trump threatened a cutoff of aid even though Republican as well as Democratic areas stood to be affected. That proved empty and he won no concessions for it.
Newsom is in his first year as top Democrat of a blue state Trump is likely to lose by a landslide next year, as he did in 2016. That frames the president's self-interest. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff represent California districts.
“You don’t believe in climate change," Newsom tweeted back at Trump. "You are excused from this conversation.” The two elected officials have clashed in particular over environmental legislation.
“We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes,” the governor added.
Nobody but Trump seems to have a problem with current or past federal help, and Newsom has even praised U.S. support in the current emergency.
Would Trump find a way to fault the state and local governments the next time massive flooding hits New York or Florida? And would it have any impact?
Trump said of Newsom: "He's like a child. He doesn't know what he's doing."
Projection is nothing new in the Trump bag of tricks. Early in 2016, after he insulted rival Ted Cruz's wife's appearance, Trump insisted repeatedly: “He started it."
The hollow threat over funding even revives an instance of Trump's fondness for Russia's government.
Trump in August offered President Vladimir Putin U.S. help in fighting widespread wildfires then raging in parts of Siberia. Putin expressed "sincere gratitude" and said he'd accept if necessary, according to the Kremlin.
By contrast, California seems to have earned a Ukraine-like status at the White House — making you wonder none too seriously if Newsom might be asked to dig up dirt on fellow Democrats in exchange for funds.
It may be too late anyway for such a hypothetical deal. Newsom has expressed support for impeachment based on Trump's "corruption."