Trump on everything

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 18 April 2019

Flames and smoke on the roof of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris: When I saw the pictures, still half-asleep, early Tuesday morning, my first thought was the fire was so high up that perhaps some aerial firefighting support was called for.

Upon further consideration, and with the benefit of having woken up by then, I realised that was a daft idea. If it had been sensible, then French firefighters would have thought of it already.

With my mind made up, I quickly put my phone down and resisted the temptation to issue unrequited advice to the Paris fire department via Twitter.

It was only later in the day that I noticed how, for once, Donald Trump and I had had the same gut instinct. Except the US President was awake, had no second thoughts, and tweeted straight away.

“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” @realDonaldTrump told the world. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

As always, Trump’s determination was admirable. In his “Must act quickly!” world, no time is ever to be wasted on deliberation.

There is only one problem: The most obvious solutions do not always work.

Even as they dealt with the unfolding firestorm, French emergency services quickly explained via Twitter why Trump’s “flying water tankers” would compound the disaster.

Since the emergency now involved the US President, the French Sécurité Civile even tweeted in English: “Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.”

Dropping tonnes of water on a weakened medieval structure was perhaps not the smartest suggestion after all.

It all reminded me of the great H.L. Mencken’s dictum: “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

For Donald Trump’s fans, such hair-splitting hardly matters. His firefighting advice has by now been shared almost 40,000 times and liked more than 200,000 times.

The world is now awaiting his next batch of instructions. End hunger by baking cake (hat tip to Marie Antoinette). Solve rising sea levels by pulling the plug. Stop all wars by making peace.

Life can be so simple when you are Donald Trump.

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