Great American Outdoors Act President Trump

The President’s green comedy routine

A token, triumphal green moment for a president and party who just might need such a thing in an election year.

Last Tuesday, we almost had a breakthrough moment on the environment.


With Interior Secretary David Bernhardt by his side, the 45th President prepared to set pen to paper on a bipartisan, nearly unassailable conservation bill to protect National Parks and other wild lands.

And then comedy broke out.

As God as my witness, President Donald J. Trump, offered soaring rhetoric: "When young Americans experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the sky, when they gaze upon Yosemite's — Yosemite's towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger and they know that every American has truly a duty to preserve this wondrous inheritance."

But wait. When Trump got to the word "Yosemite" in his script, he tripped over it as if it were a word in Esperanto or Klingon. The first try was something like "YOH-seh-might." On the second try, he added a syllable, "YOH-se-ni-might."

Such a kidder.

Dear God, as an inveterate TV watcher, hasn't this man even heard of one of the most precious places on Earth, even if it's in a state run by Democrats? Hasn't he at least heard of Yosemite Sam, the colorful and prominent Westerner who apparently holds naming rights to the place?

Hats off to Sarah Lefton, a digital media creator, who turned Trump's gaffe into an ethnically-themed "Yo, Semite" T-shirt design that's reportedly going viral.

To be sure, the Great American Outdoors Act is a complete outlier for a man who put the "lier" in "outlier." It funds long-delayed maintenance of public lands and permanently renews the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark conservation law first signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The Republican-controlled Senate, where such measures often go to die these days, passed the Act by a 73-25 vote. It was a token, triumphal green moment for a president and party who just might need such a thing in an election year.

But then Trump turned Half Dome into Half-Ass, and Yosemite became "Yoh-se-might"—a name that might sound more at home on a big can of powder in a GNC store. Mitigating factor? Tens of millions of Trump's faithful now hold the unshakeable belief that not only is "Yoh-se-might" correct, but since the days of the Miwok and Paiute nations, it's the only way it's ever been pronounced.

Just about every major news outlet covered the signing. Fox News covered it, well, a tad differently. They didn't find the "Yoh-Se-Mite" gag funny enough to include, but added a howler of their own: "The fishing and gaming industry"was well-represented at the signing, Fox reported. The President's last go-round with the "gaming industry," by all accounts, didn't go so so well.

All of which brings us back to Yoh-so-might. If, as the great documentarian Ken Burns has said, national parks are "America's greatest idea," why does our president not have a clue?

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. Contact him at pdykstra@ehn.org or on Twitter at @Pdykstra.

Banner photo: President Trump signs the Great American Outdoors Act on Aug. 4, 2020. (Credit: The White House)

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