Like most of Trump's weird ideas, his latest claim about Finland using rakes to fight fires is a garbled version of something he saw on TV.
Trump has said plenty of spectacularly dumb and uninformed things about science. But while touring the devastation from California's wildfires this weekend, Trump uttered one of the weirdest dumb and uninformed things he's ever said about science.
California wouldn’t have all these problems with deadly wildfires, Trump claimed, if they just raked the forest floors, like they do in Finland.
“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,” Trump told reporters. "I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem.”
The president of Finland said he had no idea what Trump was talking about. The internet rejoiced with mockery and created the hashtag "Rake America Great Again." Trump supporters tried to scold the Washington Post with claims that Trump obviously meant to say something totally different from what he actually said.
The Post also seems to have figured out where Trump got this bizarre idea in the first place. Can you guess?
Yep, it was something he saw on TV — probably on Fox News, given what we know about how Trump likes to spend his "executive time."
And not just something he saw on TV, but something he saw on TV, then misinterpreted and misremembered, then spewed back out in a garbled mutation of the original — as if Trump was playing a game of telephone with himself.
“I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas. They were raking areas!" Trump told Fox News' Chris Wallace in an Oval Office interview taped before the California trip. “They’re raking trees, little trees like this — nut trees, little bushes, that you could see are totally dry. Weeds! And they’re raking them. They’re on fire.”
Trump pantomimed raking as he did this.
“That should have been all raked out,” he added. “You wouldn’t have the fires.”
So, Trump saw a firefighter on TV dealing with underbrush in a way that looked to Trump like ordinary garden raking; Trump's brain decided that this "raking" is just how everybody handles underbrush growth in the type of forest management that prevents fires; Trump talked to the president of Finland in a general way about forest management; and voila, suddenly the entire nation of Finland has a rake-based fire prevention strategy.
As many scientists and lawmakers have pointed out, this idea of Trump's is extremely wrong and dumb for many reasons — not the least of which is that these latest fires started in urban areas, not forests.
“It’s not about forest management,” University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison told the AP. “These aren’t forests.”
And even if forest management were the issue, Trump has no idea what he's talking about.
“If preventing wildfires were as easy as raking leaves, we would have done that by now,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said Sunday on MSNBC, pointing out that the real problem is climate change, dry weather, and high winds.
Trump gets most of his ideas from Fox News, including on military policy. And sometimes he can't even get what Fox is saying right.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.