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The Riggs Report: Trump pokes the California bear

March 1, 2018

President’s March visit to the state will be his first since inauguration

If President Trump follows through on announced plans to visit California later this month, it promises to be a political and media carnival of the first order.

He did not visit last fall, when the disastrous Tubbs Fire swept through Sonoma County, claiming 22 lives and destroying more than 2,800 homes in the city of Santa Rosa alone. It has been tagged as the most destructive wildfire in the state’s modern history.

The president did not visit earlier this year, when the Thomas Fire, driven by Santa Ana winds destroyed more than 1,000 structures in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. That was followed days later by catastrophic mudslides that killed at least 21 people and demolished more than 100 homes.

Trump is coming, however, to San Diego to tour several border wall prototypes—a visual reminder of his often-stated campaign pledge to build a massive wall along the Mexico border.

The trip would be significant on its own because it marks the first time that Trump will have visited since his inauguration. It is unusual for a president to have left California off his travel itinerary for such an extended period, if only because it’s such a treasure trove for fundraising.

For example, President Obama visited the state within two months of his inauguration in 2009, conducting town halls and touring an electric vehicle plant.

President George W. Bush was here within five months of his swearing in ceremony, touring Sequoia National Park and delivering a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the Century Plaza Hotel.

President Trump’s visit this month, focusing on the wall and his immigration policies, reflects a very different political environment from what we’ve seen in the past.

He’ll be arriving in a place that political leaders in Sacramento, including Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Gov. Jerry Brown, have characterized as a center of resistance to federal policies.

Those differences, ranging from the fate of the Dreamers to offshore oil drilling and global warming, will be on full display.

In other words, there won’t be a friendly welcome. The president’s visit is sure to attract some vocal protests.

Trump’s recent provocative comments about withholding ICE officers from law enforcement duties in California and suggestions that he will delay improving some border fencing foreshadows a strong likelihood that he will poke the California grizzly bear during the upcoming visit.

It won’t take much to pick a fight. California’s Democratic leadership will be quick to take the bait, especially in an election year, and Trump’s voter base in red states will eat up the conflict.

In other words, there will be something for both sides to savor.