New York Times: Trump 'Darth Vader-like Figure,' Environment Speech Like 1984

New York Times political reporter Katie Rogers teamed with environmental reporter Coral Davenport for Trump mockery on Tuesday’s front page: “In Speech, Trump Portrays U.S. As a Leader on the Environment.” That benign headline hid deep bias. The current online headline reflected the story’s actual tone by quoting a Trump critic: “Trump Saw Opportunity in Speech on Environment. Critics Saw a ‘“1984” Moment.’”

The print version is substantially different from the original story posted online Monday, which began with a juvenile quote from one of the paper’s favorite liberal historians, Obama sycophant Douglas Brinkley.

President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the international Paris climate change accord, sought to roll back or weaken over 80 environmental regulations and punted on global environmental leadership.

“On the issue of environmental stewardship,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, “Trump is seen around the world as a Darth Vader-like figure.”

But Monday afternoon, Mr. Trump delivered a speech billed as “America’s Environmental Leadership.” He was flanked by his two senior environmental officials -- one a former lobbyist for the coal industry and the other a former oil lobbyist.

The “Darth Vader” crack was excised from the print version that appeared in print on Tuesday’s front page, which began with the political context and threw in some “fact-checking” and the “1984” quote:

Reviewing new polling data, consultants working for President Trump’s 2020 campaign discovered an unsurprising obstacle to winning support from two key demographic groups, millennials and suburban women. And that was his record on the environment.

But they also saw an opportunity. While the numbers showed that Mr. Trump was “never going to get” the type of voter who feels passionately about tackling climate change, a senior administration official who reviewed the polling said, there were moderate voters who liked the president’s economic policies and “just want to know that he’s being responsible” on environmental issues.

Experts watching the speech said many of the president’s claims were not based in fact. Those achievements that were real, they said, were the result of actions taken by his predecessors. And they noted the one conspicuous omission from the whole discussion: any mention of climate change, the overarching environmental threat that Mr. Trump has mocked in the past.

David G. Victor, the director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego, said the speech was the starkest example to date of the disconnect between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and reality. “This speech is a true ‘1984’ moment,” he said.

Mr. Trump called himself a protector of public land, but he has taken unprecedented steps to open up public lands to drilling, including signing off on the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history, and lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands.

He repeatedly cited his desire for clear water, but the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of rolling back an Obama-era clean-water regulation of pollution in streams and wetlands.

The Times simply assumed all bad weather events were a direct result of climate change.

Polls show that Florida is one state where Republican voters rank environmental issues as a top concern. The reason, the polls have found, is that Florida is now on the front lines of climate change, as Miami and other cities experience consistent, damaging flooding as a result of sea level rise and a warming planet.

But Mr. Trump made no mention of climate change, nor did he revisit a tendency to proudly sell himself as a champion of the coal industry and fossil fuels in general -- even as they remain one of the chief causes of global warming.

This incongruous message of environmental action was so starkly at odds with Mr. Trump’s own record that some critics found the moment almost surreal.

“It is an utter farce for the president to talk about America’s environmental leadership, when he has been a champion of the polluters,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has written about environmental policy.

Also on Tuesday, the front of the Business section featured Marc Tracy’s report, “Newsrooms Face a Changing Climate.” The opening paragraph rounded up weather events and blamed them all on climate change, in a story on Florida newspapers leaning toward hysteria on the issue.

As Europe heats up, Greenland melts and the Midwest floods, many news organizations are devoting more resources to climate change as they cover the topic with more urgency.

In Florida, six newsrooms with different owners have taken the unusual step of pooling their resources and sharing their reporting on the issue. They plan to examine how climate change will affect the state’s enormous agriculture sector as well as “the future of coastal towns and cities -- which ones survive, which ones go under,” according to a statement released when the initiative was announced last month.

NB Daily Katie Rogers Coral Davenport Donald Trump Douglas Brinkley
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