Staff Columnist

Campaign 2020: Iowa Nice is out. Iowa Selfish is in

In this image taken with a slow shutter speed, embers light up a hillside behind the Bidwell Bar Bridge as the Bear Fire
In this image taken with a slow shutter speed, embers light up a hillside behind the Bidwell Bar Bridge as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded at a critical rate of spread as winds buffeted the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Maybe it’s the climate. And maybe it’s exploding trees.

“When trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become really dry. They become really like a matchstick ... and they just explode,” Trump explained to reporters as he arrived in California to be briefed on massive, destructive wildfires, according to the Sacramento Bee. He also warned that dry leaves are a problem.

At the briefing, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot talked about a warming earth altering the climate. Trump said the weather “will start getting cooler.”

“I wish the science agreed with you,” Crowfoot said.

“I don’t think the science knows,” Trump said.

It reminded me of an exchange in August when Trump visited Cedar Rapids following the derecho.

“So is that a liability when you have all those trees,” Trump asked Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly, who was explaining the high cost of tree removal. “You love the trees. You want to keep the trees.

“So that’s really a loss?” Trump asked

“Yes, Absolutely” AbouAssaly said, explaining how a healthy tree canopy reduces energy use, among other benefits.

Tree-huggers? How about tree-blamers?

The president is missing the forest as he ponders the trees. Forestry policy is, of course, a factor in fires. But scientists have been warning us for decades that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are warming the planet and changing the climate. And that an altered climate would yield more intense natural disasters. California is burning amid a historic heat wave and drought. Another hurricane made landfall this week while five other tropical systems develop in the Atlantic. We, of course, just had the worst storm we’ve ever seen, the third major natural disaster to hit Cedar Rapids in 12 years.

Is this what scientists were talking about? Signs point to yes.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden roasted Trump’s climate record this week and touted his own plan, which would seek to achieve zero-emission public transit by 2030, electricity by 2035 and net zero emissions overall by 2050. It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a plan addressing a crisis, instead of doing nothing and pretending it doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile in Iowa, Republicans without a plan have tweets.

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In July, Republican 1st District congressional candidate Ashley Hinson tweeted criticism of Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer for supporting Biden’s plan for carbon-free electricity and transit “which would DESTROY the ethanol industry.” All caps makes it true.

Never mind that biofuels organizations largely reacted favorably to Biden’s plan, sensing an opportunity for ethanol and other fuels in carbon reduction efforts.

Hinson previously tweeted in June that Finkenauer had voted to spend $123 billion on “the Green New Deal” that would put farmers “OUT of business.” The spending actually was in the INVEST Act. Our fact-checker gave Hinson an F and a D for her claims.

Forget Iowa Nice. Iowa Selfish is carrying the day.

Sorry westerners fleeing for your lives and coastal Americans being smacked with intense hurricanes and rising sea levels, we can’t slash emissions because ethanol.

Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst led the fight to blow up clean water rules protecting wetlands all over the nation because our farm groups didn’t like them. Sorry, but we don’t mind dirty water.

Statehouse Republicans won’t require farmers to take even the most basic steps to control nitrate and phosphorus runoff creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Sorry shrimpers.

Hinson is running on the need for “change.” But screaming ethanol at a burning planet isn’t change. It’s more of the same. From the climate to the pandemic, the Trumpian Republican strategy is deny, misinform, downplay and shift blame to socialists, governors, trees, leaves, etc.

What we need is real change, and leadership. Maybe we’ll get it. Knock on wood.

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