If Hurricane Harvey is the worst natural disaster in U S History, Donald J Trump’s response has been the worst presidential response in our history. Before this week that title was awarded hands down to George W. Bush.
As the storms approached, both men took actions designed to meet the danger – Each declared a federal disaster emergency for the affected areas, ordered federal relief agencies to move into high gear, made available financial aid for hurricane victims and were briefed on the progress of the storm and on initial relief efforts for victims. All necessary and good actions but ones that occurred behind closed doors.
In this television age where the Chinese adage that a picture is worth a thousand words was never truer, we look to the president to be seen in leading the nation’s response, in representing us all in compassion and support for the victims. The president in times of national distress is our leader, our pastor in grief, our chief mourner when deaths occur.
The next day after Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in 1965, with over a third of the city under water, President Lyndon Johnson flew to New Orleans. Wind and rain were still punishing the area as he drove down Canal Street, and talked to survivors huddled in a shelter.
Two days after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, President Obama was on the ground there touring devastated areas and personally hugging and comforting victims of the storm. Later the Republican Governor, Chris Christie, thanked and praised Obama for his sincere help.
So, back to Presidents Bush and Trump.
In Bush’s case, his first personal visit to the Katrina devastation was three days later when he flew over the area on Air Force One while on the way back to Washington from his ranch. He later visited the Gulf area but the image of a president who just “mailed it in” from thirty five thousand feet stuck.
President Trump did not make that mistake. Harvey hit on Friday, August 25, and Trump visited Texas the next Tuesday. The problem in his visit is not that he made it, but why he made it. The problem was in what seemed to be important to him.
This is the way Politico’s opening paragraph of their story summed up the visit:
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was a presidential trip to a deluged state where the president didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street.
But the daylong visit, during which President Donald Trump spent far more time in the air than on the ground, gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted, as he checked in on the government apparatus working on relief efforts and was buoyed by a roaring crowd of locals.
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump said, wearing khakis and a storm jacket — an unusual look for him — while waving a Texas state flag before about 1,000 people gathered across a rural Texas highway.”
According to numerous press reports, while he praised both federal and local relief workers, he did not mention the victims or reach out in words to the survivors a single time.
President Trump did fly to Texas, not over it, and it can be argued that he “didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street” because he didn’t want to get in the way of the immediate relief efforts like Johnson or Obama. But on Wednesday, the day after his visit to Texas, guess what Trump tweeted:
After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!
No, sir, you didn’t witness first hand the horror & devastation and in saying that you did the motive we’ve come to expect from you was laid bare once again: This trip was all about you and your need for glory and adoration, not about the devastated people of Texas.
Well, Donald J Trump will try again on Saturday, making a second trip which will include Houston. Vice President Pence, often the “clean up man” behind Trump, says the president will see and comfort many storm victims.
By the way, when President Obama quickly visited New Jersey and immediately comforted Hurricane victims there in 2012, private citizen Donald J Trump tweeted his contempt for Obama’s efforts.
Not only giving out money, but Obama will be seen today standing in water and rain like he is a real President — don’t fall for it.
Obama is now standing in a puddle acting like a President–give me a break.
No President Trump, give us a break. We don’t ask that you stand in a puddle acting like a President. We really don’t want you acting like a president at all. Just get on your helicopter on the White House South lawn, give us the “Nixon salute” and like him, leave town!