Times of crisis call for great leadership. Tragedy struck today in Paris when the 856-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral caught fire. As Cockburn writes, the spire has just fallen.
The premiers of France’s allies have been quick to offer words of condolence. ‘My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral,’ tweeted British Prime Minister Theresa May.
‘Shocking pictures from Paris. A landmark, World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful buildings in French history,is on fire. We hope no one is hurt. Our thoughts are in Paris,’ wrote Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
But as usual, the most statesmanlike response came from leader of the free world and noted Francophile, Donald J. Trump:
So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
‘So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,’ wrote the 45th President, in what Cockburn supposes would pass for an expression of compassion. Then, the kicker: a practical solution. ‘Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!’
If the flames tearing through a World Heritage site weren’t enough of a hint, it’s good of the president to remind the French of the need for urgency. But how helpful is Trump’s advice? After all, the Canadair super-scoopers were of great assistance when fighting the California wildfires last year. According to a French fireman, not particularly.
When Le Figaro asked Lt. Arneau Blondiau about the possibility of using a Canadair on the Notre-Dame fire, he said, ‘A Canadair drops around 6,000 liters of water. It would destroy the whole building and result in the evacuation of the rescue effort.’
Zut alors! After decades in the construction industry, Cockburn wondered whether Trump had picked up a thing or two about the structural integrity of buildings. Alas, it seems not.