"Private Eye" issue 1484, 13 Dec 2018 (p. 29)
There is something about Trump that makes otherwise intelligent, well-educated and well-informed people lose their reason. When they're not trying to make you lose yours, as I showed a few days ago.
Above are two more examples.
Let's start with the cartoon. Here is Trump, with that darkened face (it would be orange if in colour) represented as George Washington in the famous anecdote in which GW freely confessed his wrongdoing to his father. So, translated into words, is this image telling us that President Trump was personally responsible for the fires in California? Or that forest management would mean cutting down the trees?
And then, when the satirists decide to use words, as in the skit atop this strange sketch, they blether about Twitter, climate change, MAGA, even inventing criticism by Trump of the firefighters tackling the blaze - just, lunacy.
It's a visceral thing, not a rational matter. This video gives a plausible explanation for "liberal" intellectuals' loss of self-control at the sight and sound of the President (htp: A K Haart):
What actually happened?
Trump visited California because of the terrible blazes there that have claimed dozens of victims, with hundreds of other people still not accounted for.
Now the usual approach of political leaders is simply to empathise on our behalf - remember President Clinton's "I feel your pain"? (he did say it), announce financial and other support in general terms, and so on. It's sort of performing a Father Of The Nation or priestly role. And because we are mostly emotional, it works: Clinton's "emotional intelligence" may have helped him gain the Presidency, denying Bush Senior his second term in office.
But Trump is a businessman, so he blundered straight on into practical suggestion, looking at what could be done to prevent a recurrence. Clearing the forest floor, for example.
And that was a gift for those who will seize on anything at all to bury Trump in negatives. Suggest thinning out the woodland and you are accused of grabbing an opportunity to increase logging. Or an expert "fire scientist" - or biology professor - says that's not the issue. And because Trump speaks as he thinks, he will make verbal stumbles and that's even better - so "raking" became the big joke.
No wonder professional politicians practise being bland and vague. Probably they would have taken the usual tack in cases like this - calling for some lengthy investigation that would cause the eyes of the news media to glaze over.
But eventually, amid the spluttering, there came some more nuanced reconsideration of the problem and possible solutions, e.g. the BBC's "California wildfires: Is Trump right when he blames forest managers?"
As so often, when the media flak has died down we find that Trump has, in his ham-fisted way, opened an agenda for discussion. Among other things, the BBC's article implies that there is a need for better coordination between the various large landowners of California's forests, and quotes an expert who agrees that some detritus needs to be removed to reduce fire hazard.
Trump referenced Finland in his comments, but we might also learn from Portugal.
Last year, Portugal saw horrendous fires in the forests in its central region, with over 60 fatalities, some caught in the flashover as they took the wrong road in their attempt to drive out of danger.
This is a perennial problem in Portugal, much of which which is mountainous and covered with oily, fast-burning coniferous trees. A standard part of the land management is to clear the woodland floor.
If you walk along the dusty tracks through the forest, you will see rags and empty plastic milk bottles hanging from branches: these indicate the boundaries of individually-owned plots of land, which can be quite small, in traditional rural areas. You can help yourself to branches and cones that have fallen onto the road, but everything off the track is private.
The owners are responsible for regular clearance of their patch. It's their duty to the community.
But the situation is becoming difficult as the pattern of land ownership and settlement changes. In Portugal, if you wish to sell your house, you must show that you have the legal agreement of the entire family, even those members living abroad (and some two million of working age have emigrated to look for employment.) As the Portuguese have risen out of relative poverty, what they have been doing is to buy or build new houses elsewhere and simply abandon the old ones. There are many houses and plots of land that lie untended and it's often not clear who they belong to. So, who is going to clear their forest patch for them?
There's a 2018 English-language study of the complex Portuguese wildfire management issues here.
President Trump can often seem clumsy and crass, but our respect for some media commentators and parodists diminishes when we see how unthinking their responses to him can be.