If only Trump focused on fires as much as football

On three separate occasions yesterday, Trump emphasized his interest in Big 10 college football. He did not, however, mention Western fires at all.
Image:
Cars drive along Bay Bridge under an orange smoke filled sky at midday in San Francisco on Sept. 9, 2020.Harold Postic / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

At a White House press conference yesterday, Donald Trump declared, "We want to see Big 10 football. We hope it's coming back.... People are working very, very hard to get Big 10 football back, and I'm pushing it." A couple of hours later, before boarding Air Force One, the president spoke briefly with reporters, again referencing Big 10 college football -- twice.

After arriving in Michigan for a campaign rally, Trump once again spent some time emphasizing just how eager he is to see Big 10 college football games.

None of this was especially new. The president has spent recent weeks obsessing over Big 10 college football in a variety of venues. There are, however, some important problems with this.

First, there are several other college athletic conferences that have canceled or delayed their football seasons, but the president only seems focused on the one with schools in the Midwest -- where there are several electoral battleground states of interest. This reinforces suspicions that Trump wants student athletes to take unnecessary risks to advance his interests, not theirs.

Second, the president's preoccupation coincides with an assessment from Penn State's director of athletic medicine, who issued a dire assessment last week about cases of myocarditis that appear to be prevalent among Big 10 athletes.

And third, while Trump repeatedly emphasized the importance of Big 10 college football at three separate events yesterday, there was another "f" word that went completely ignored: "fire." The Mercury News in California noted yesterday:

President Donald Trump has yet to offer any public statement of support amid historic wildfires spreading in the Pacific northwest and northern California -- even though he vowed federal intervention in those states earlier this summer amid racial unrest. Trump last weighed in on the devastating fires in California in the middle of August, when another round of blazes was burning north of the Bay Area. His familiar response was to blame the state's forest management.

"They're starting again in California," the Republican said at a rally, referring to forest fires he's never even tried to understand. "I said, 'You gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests.'"

That was three weeks ago. Trump apparently hasn't mentioned Western fires since, neither in public remarks nor via social media.

To be sure, the president took a keen interest in Oregon when he saw images of civil unrest in Portland, but as hundreds of thousands of Oregonians evacuate fire-stricken areas, Trump, at least so far, has had very little to say about developments in the state.

Meanwhile, some parts of California are seeing their largest fires on record, and the disaster has already claimed 12 lives in the state.

If the West coast included competitive 2020 battlegrounds, would Trump be more inclined to say something?