Commentary: Media Focuses on One Denial by President, Ignores Another

Post-apocalyptic scene in Davis as the sun rises through the smoke on Tuesday morning

By David M. Greenwald

Most of the nation was focused on Wednesday on the revelations from Bob Woodward that President Trump knew in February that COVID was both airborne and dangerous (as though we didn’t know that already) but intentionally downplayed the severity of the disease and pending pandemic.  Less than two months before an election, those comments are bombshells, but for those of us on the West Coast, the big story is the impending climate crisis that turned our sky red.

KQED in San Francisco led with: “No, You Didn’t Wake Up to the Apocalypse. Wildfire Smoke Turns Bay Area Sky Orange and Dark.”

“We have multiple layers of clouds down near our regular marine layer,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services. “Up above, we have three or four different layers of smoke coming from a variety of fires as far away as Oregon; some fires to the east of Chico.”

The worst news – the weather service believes we are stuck with this for a while.  The smoke has for the most part been around since mid-August when a heat wave combined with rare lightning strikes in the valley started a series of fires.  And while there have been times when the smoke has let up, it’s back and now is the worst its been.

The weather services is predicting that the smoke will remain the rest of this week and into next week unless conditions change dramatically – and they aren’t expected to.

In fact, it could get worse as smoke gets pushed into the valley and then starts to descend to the surface as the winds that came up yesterday begin to weaken.

I suppose there is some good news.  By 6 pm yesterday, it was already 75 degrees – cooler than it was early in the morning and by 8 pm it was in the 60s, the coolest it’s been in a week.

There is a possibility that a weather system will move through Northern California mid-next week but forecasters are less certain it will be big enough to disperse the smoke.

This is reminder of the world we are entering.  The New York Times reports this morning, “Wildfires are ravaging the West — in California alone, five of the largest blazes on record have all struck in just the past four years.”

The Times points out this is a predictable consequence of climate change.  And it’s only early September – this isn’t close to being over yet.  These days, we might have two months left before there is enough rain to really end the seasonal drought.

While the Times pointed out yesterday, “California’s climate has always been fire prone, the link between climate change and bigger fires is inextricable.”

“This climate-change connection is straightforward: warmer temperatures dry out fuels. In areas with abundant and very dry fuels, all you need is a spark,” said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “As long as stuff is dry enough and there’s a spark, then that stuff will burn.”

“In pretty much every single way, a perfect recipe for fire is just kind of written in California,” Dr. Williams said. “Nature creates the perfect conditions for fire, as long as people are there to start the fires. But then climate change, in a few different ways, seems to also load the dice toward more fire in the future.”

But while the media has been quick to sensationalize the COVID story, they have been slow to point out that the President has not only failed to act on Climate Change – he has attempted to sow greater doubt on it.

IN 2018, President Trump cast doubt on his own administration’s warning of the devasting effects from climate change.

He said in response to findings that unchecked global warming would wreak havoc on the US economy, “I don’t believe it.”

In 2009, Trump actually signed a full page ad in the New York Times, along with other business leaders, expressing support for legislation combating climate change.

“If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet,” the statement said.

But since he’s been President, he has issued a slew of statements playing up the doubt.

“IT’s freezing in New York – where the hell is global warming?” he tweeted.  “The weather has been so cold for so long that the global warming HOAXSTERS were forced to change the name to climate change to keep $ flow!”

At another time he tweeted, “I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference.  But I don’t know that it’s manmade.”

In January, Inside Climate news noted, “Trump’s first term has been a relentless drive for unfettered fossil energy development. ICN’s 2020 candidate analysis looks at the president’s climate record.”

In March 2017, the President said, “This is the start of a new era in American energy production and job creation. We will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers and companies to play on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, a long time. We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

In short, what we are seeing unfolding before our very issues is the failure of leadership on climate change from the US.  But while the red skies got play, the link to administration policies not so much.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    Less than two months before an election, those comments are bombshells,

    Funny, I just finished reading a piece by Matt Taibbi called ‘Stop Calling Them “Bombshells”‘.  I’d link but it’s paid – maybe you can find with Googs if interested.

    1. David Greenwald

      You kind of missed the point but I probably would have been better adding “those comments are being treated like bombshells” – I thought the second half of the sentence (as well as the headline) would give away my intent better than it probably did. Needless to say, another comment focused on the pre-conjunction rather than the post-conjunction thought.

      1. Eric Gelber

        In a nutshell, downplaying of the threat of COVID-19 was intended to minimize the impact on the stock market. Rolling back or reversing of environmental regulations is intended to reduce costs to corporations. In both instances, the ineluctable human costs were not taken into account or were considered secondary.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Biden and many other prominent Democrats also downplayed the threat of COVID when it first started rearing its ugly head.  So were they trying to minimize the impact to the stock market too?

        2. Keith Olsen

          But it rings hollow to now bash the President when Biden and many Democrats were saying many of the same things.  In fact when Trump enacted the China travel ban early in the pandemic Biden and top Democrats and media figures immediately derided the move as unnecessary and xenophobic.

        3. Alan Miller

          I give Trump credit for China travel ban – and the xeno calls were politics.  On the other hand, as a leader of the people of the US in setting an example and calling for people to wear masks for the protection of fellow citizens, there cold probably be no worse human being in the White House, sans a rotting corpse, or the Governor of South Dakota.

          1. David Greenwald

            Why would you give him credit for doing something that is a politically-reinforcing move that was at best a half-measure? And of course it was xenophobic, which is why we had all of the derisive comments about China and Asian from him and his supporters.

        4. Keith Olsen

          Why would you give him credit for doing something that is a politically-reinforcing move that was at best a half-measure?

          You say it was a half measure so the inference is he should’ve done more but you’re also saying at the same time he was xenophobic for doing so?  Talk about having it both ways.

          1. David Greenwald

            I asked Alan, I know where you stand. But I do find it interesting how locked in your thinking is on this. The only conceivable way you see to have done more is to be more xenophobic.

        5. Keith Olsen

          But I do find it interesting how locked in your thinking is on this. The only conceivable way you see to have done more is to be more xenophobic.

          If you mean he should’ve enacted the China flight ban earlier or had banned more Chinese cities then you would be correct.  But that’s not xenophobia, just better policy in the face of a pandemic.

        6. Eric Gelber

          From Keith:

          Joe Biden on February 28: “It’s not a time to panic about coronavirus”

          Accompanied by a seven second video clip that cuts Biden off in mid-sentence. You and others who posted this intentionally deceptive clip in response to Trump’s Woodward admissions should be embarrassed by such an obvious attempt to misrepresent and distort what Biden said to make it appear he agreed with Trump’s response to the Corona virus. Here’s a more complete clip providing context:

    1. Bill Marshall

      EG… here, I believe in this case,

      The common thread between these denials: Putting the interests of corporations over the interests of people.

      You are incorrect, except perhaps, tangentially… the common thread is what will sustain Trump, his wealth, and his image… and therefore, his power.  The only corporations he cares for are those he owns, or has a piece of… other corporations are useful idiots to fund his campaigns.

      Corroborating evidence is his denial in disclosing anything about his financial empire, taxes, etc., and denying they CAN be made available (they’re under audit… [for ~ 4 years?]), or denying they are pertinent as to conflicts of interest, etc., and denying the gov’t has any right to subpoena them…

      In my opinion, clearly… it’s all about the Donald…


      1. Eric Gelber

        That may have been Trump’s personal motive—What’s good for General Motors is good for the Donald—but deregulation efforts of those in positions of authority throughout the administration are not so narrowly defined or motivated.

        1. Bill Marshall

          “We were just following orders”, as to those in position of authority in the administration?…

          Remember the famous line from ‘The Apprentice’… “YOU’RE FIRED!”

  2. Ron Oertel

    Personally, I’m just glad that there’s no examples of claiming to be concerned about global warming, while pushing for a development which conflicts with the city’s climate action goals. 

    Because that would look really bad, especially in an article like this. 😉

  3. Ron Glick

    “But it rings hollow to now bash the President when Biden and many Democrats were saying many of the same things.”

    As Dr. Fauci would say “Oh, you want to play that game.”

    The nature of emergent diseases is that you have limited information early in the epidemic. The problem Trump has on this is that he is on tape telling Woodward one thing and on video telling the American people the opposite at the same time. We now know what the President knew and when he new it and we also have the smoking gun tape. We also have them courtesy of Bob Woodward of Watergate fame although this time Trump is his own Deepthroat.

  4. Ron Glick

    I also want to bring up opposition to Trump’s China travel ban that is often cited as a failure of the Democrats.

    As someone who doubted it at the time I think it is important to understand why I felt that way. After years of Trump’s xenophobic attacks on immigrants, both those seeking illegal entry and those seeking asylum, in my mind he has no credibility. So when he put in his travel ban I felt it was another attempt to use his authority against immigrants. When someone lies so much it becomes hard to believe that they are ever telling the truth.

    As for global warming I had the same thought yesterday. If Trump can lie and be indifferent to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from Covid 19 I wondered what else has he has lied about. I looked up at the sky, a sky that reminded me of being a kid in LA in the 60’s before California put in the air standards Trump is trying to roll back and realized Trump’s lies about global warming were also biting the country in the butt.


  5. Bill Marshall

    Trump initiated the China travel ban that took effect on Feb. 2 and Biden called him xenophobic for doing so.  How many lives do you think that saved?

    Zero.  As Biden had no impact on the decision, one way or the other… duh…

    Just like saying your comment has neither saved lives, nor caused any deaths…

    And the virus appears to have been introduced via Europe, not China…

    1. Ron Glick

      “If any question why we died, / Tell them, because our fathers lied,”

      Rudyard Kipling

      The virus came in from both Europe and Asia. It would have come in anyway. Trumps problem is he failed to minimize the impact and even worked in opposition to minimizing the impact by casting doubt on the importance of doing things like wearing masks and by holding rallies.

        1. Ron Glick

          When masks were in short supply because Trump failed to prepare even though he knew it was coming.

          Even so, the nature of science is to change when there is new information. This was where Trump failed.

        2. Matt Williams

          Not “everyone” Keith.  Healthcare workers and practitioners were all very clearly told tom wear masks.

          Looking forward we have a similar situation vis-a-vis a vaccine when one is initially available … how do you decide who are the first people to get the limited supply of the vaccine?  That issue is discussed at the 9:30 point of this morning’s Forum show on KQED

          The bottom-line is that when supplies are limited, they start by going to the people where they will have the combination of the most positive healthcare impact.

  6. Keith Olsen

    Don’t blame Trump either for the California fires.  The CA Democrats have been in charge and should have been managing the forests better, it’s too convenient for them to now lay the blame on Trump.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Well here’s Newsom himself saying California hasn’t managed its forests well.

        “I am not going to say that the forest management practices in California over the last 100 years have been ideal,” Newsom admitted, with a nod to President Trump’s frequent criticisms of the state’s work in that area. “Not for one second. But there’s something else going on, not just bad past practices.”
        “In the last few weeks alone,” he observed, “we’ve experience the hottest august ever…arguably the hottest temperature ever worldwide, record-breaking temperature in Los Angeles…Fire that we are experiencing [over] 800 miles,” or the length of the state of California.
        “That said…we have to do more in terms of proscribed burns,” admitted Newsom. “We do recognize that.”

        1. Don Shor

          I’m guessing that should be ‘prescribed’ burns, not ‘proscribed’ burns. The state and the federal government have entered into a long-term agreement about managing wildlands for fire:

          Specifically, through this agreement California and the U.S. Forest Service commit to execute the following activities together:

          Treat one million acres of forest and wildland annually to reduce risk of catastrophic wildfire (building on the state’s existing 500,000-acre annual commitment);
          Develop a shared 20-year plan for forest health and vegetation treatment that establishes and coordinates priority projects;
          Expand use of ecologically sustainable techniques for vegetation treatments such as prescribed fire;
          Increase pace and scale of forest management by improving ecologically sustainable timber harvest in California and grow jobs by tackling structural obstacles, such as workforce and equipment shortfalls and lack of access to capital;
          Prioritize co-benefits of forest health such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity, healthy watersheds and stable rural economies;
          Recycle forest byproducts to avoid burning slash piles;
          Improve sustainable recreation opportunities;
          Enable resilient, fire-adapted communities; and
          Share data and continue to invest in science.

          1. David Greenwald

            It’s hard to manage anything under conditions where temperatures are topping 120 degrees in places that never have before. You’re certainly not acknowledging that fact.

        2. Keith Olsen

          If the forests had been properly managed these fires would not have been near as destructive as they have, you certainly aren’t acknowledging that fact either.

    1. Ron Glick

      The Republicans seeking big oil’s financial support and representing big oil financial interests have fought every attempt by the Dems to address global warming.

      Jerry Brown tried to put in a tax on rural parcels to pay for fire services but the people who live on the wildlands interface objected. Don’t blame the Dems in California they have been trying their best but they can’t do it alone.

  7. Robb Davis

    To me, the common thread among these issues is the meaning of “conservative.”  In the traditional use of the word it meant taking careful actions to assure the integrity of society.  This is why there is a robust movement among conservatives around “care of the planet.”  Conservatives, though accused of being backward looking (not completely untrue), are also people who, traditionally, took a long forward view to assure that their actions today did not harm the integrity of society tomorrow.

    Donald Trump, and the Republican Party enablers of his behavior, have demonstrated they are not conservative.  There is a disregard for the integrity of things.  There is only short-term gain. There is only a reckoning that stretches into the next news cycle, the next action that will boost a stock share long enough to allow the insiders to make money, the next election in which more power can be secured to repeat the unending thirst for more short-term gain.

    And to what end?  To no end.  The Trumpian Republican Party is a directionless machine hurtling at top speed toward nothing, except more of the same rapaciousness—a rapaciousness that will run roughshod over a planet, a community, and a nation.

    1. Ron Oertel

       In the traditional use of the word it meant taking careful actions to assure the integrity of society.  This is why there is a robust movement among conservatives around “care of the planet.”

      That is an interesting point, along with the root of the word “conservation”.

      Then again, can you name any prominent conservatives who are involved with this “robust” movement?  I cannot.  Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, but not a conservative.  Same with Abe Lincoln.

      Seems to me that “care of the planet” has primarily been aligned with those with more liberal or “progressive” views.

      More recently, some “liberals/progressives” have aligned themselves with traditional “conservative” support of development. Some might even support a developer like Donald Trump (at least, when it comes to developments).

      Both political parties are involved with business interests.

    2. Ron Oertel

      Though I suppose someone like (this) Rockefeller might be described as “conservative”.  Not sure, and don’t necessarily care how he’s labeled. I do, however, care a great deal about the results of his effort:

      And guess what – Jackson Hole is no longer a “cheap” place to buy a property (though it remained that way for a very long time, thereafter). In any case, is that somehow “important”, compared to what was accomplished?

  8. Ron Oertel

    So, here’s what I’m gathering, in regard to this (and similar) Vanguard articles and some of the comments:

    Racism:  Trump’s fault.

    Police brutality: Trump’s fault.

    Protests/riots:  Trump’s fault.

    Covid:  Trump’s fault.

    Economic downturn (from Covid):  Trump’s fault.

    Global warming:  Trump’s fault.

    Fires:  Trump’s fault.

    Lack of adequate media coverage regarding Trump:  All media, with the exception of this local blog.

    Hope that helps simplify things. 😉

    1. Eric Gelber

      That’s your overly simplistic takeaway. The truth is that Trump failed to acknowledge, and/or misrepresented the facts regarding, and/or failed to effectively manage or address, and/or exacerbated each of these issues. In other words, he has consistently demonstrated a lack of competent and effective leadership.

      1. Ron Oertel

        That’s your overly simplistic takeaway. 

        That’s my attempt at humor, based upon what I’ve observed in others (regarding Trump).

        Bush got this country into a questionable war (resulting in a large number of deaths overseas, massive expense, etc.), but didn’t seem to generate nearly as much response. The comparative level of responses seems strange, to me.

        I don’t necessarily view every single thing that Trump (or any president) does in a negative manner.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Ron, you left out:
        Pre-conjunctive thought:  Trump’s fault.

        He (and I) would probably have to know what that means, before blaming him for it.  😉

        What the heck – let’s blame him for it anyway.

        If he somehow wins again, this blog is either going to be a sad, or amusing place. Maybe both.

        But, I think that people in places such as Davis forget that there are “normal” people who support Trump (mostly elsewhere). You’d never know it, reading this blog.

      2. Ron Oertel

        But the bottom line (for me, at least) is that it doesn’t really matter what individuals in Davis, the region, or California itself think of Trump.

        He will lose California (as he did last time, along with all of the other states that he’s expected to), but still might have a chance to win re-election.  Even if he loses the nationwide popular vote, again.

        So, I don’t see what difference it makes to discuss Trump on here.

        It might be more useful to discuss the electoral college, senate representation, etc. But since we’ve had two examples regarding that within the past 20 years (and the country still hasn’t done anything about it), I don’t have a lot of faith in changing the system.

        So, I guess that leaves protests and riots as “the answer”, according to some.

        Then again, I’m not entirely sure that the electoral college and senate representation “consistently” over-represents conservative agendas. There’s some small “liberal” states, I believe.

        1. Richard McCann

          How is arguing by pointing to exceptions to the rule as being “correct”? That the Senate is misrepresenative of the population’s political preferences has long been documented. Here’s several sources for that calculation:

          Yes, there’s Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, but there’s Mississippi, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas plus the average size of “red” states is much smaller than “blue” states.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Richard:  There is a difference between what you stated, vs. what Bill stated.

          I suspect that what you’re stating is true, regarding the “larger” point.

          As demonstrated by the election of Bush over Gore, and Trump over Clinton (regarding the electoral college). I’m not sure exactly how the electoral college is set up, but we’ve seen the results of it. And, we may see it again (regarding overriding the popular vote).

          Probably similar issues, regarding the Senate, as you noted.

          And yet, no sign of changing the system itself.

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