While wary of comparisons to George W. Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, he couldn't help pointing out his is bigger.
Hurricane Harvey was a record-breaking storm: The National Weather Service had to add new colors to its maps to show the intense rainfall: more than 52 inches.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump seemed more impressed than horrified. Upon landing in Texas Tuesday, he first treated the event as a campaign rally. “What a crowd! What a turnout,” he bragged, and called the storm “historic.”
“It’s epic what happened,” Trump said.
This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment, overwhelmed reaction. Two days before visiting, he had tweeted:
“HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible. Thanks!”
Wearing a white “USA”-embroidered hat that you too can purchase for $40 from the Donald Trump 2020 campaign store, he managed to praise both the storm and the people of Texas. What he did not do was offer any direct words of compassion.
Not for victims who had likely lost their homes and belongings, or for people still stranded by floodwaters, or for the families of the 14 people already confirmed dead from the storm.
An empathy deficit
He did wave the flag of Texas, to cheers, telling the crowd that “Texas can handle anything.” He also told officials he wanted to do disaster response “better than ever before.
“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”
As though the disaster was all about his administration's image.
After leaving town and having a chance to review his media coverage, he tried to fix his empathy deficit. The following morning, he 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!”
As many people who accompanied Trump around Texas pointed out, Trump did not witness the devastation “firsthand.” He merely met with state and local officials who had. Staying away from the havoc, which would distract resources from rescue operations, is actually the smartest thing Trump did on the visit.
Of course, that didn’t stop some idiot Trump supporter from Photoshopping the president pulling people from the flood waters — in a suit, without so much as a life jacket on. Typical.
Trump certainly hasn't covered himself with glory with his response to Puerto Rico's storm damage, either. But that's another topic, for another article. Suffice it to say that throwing paper towels at people is neither compassionate nor helpful. Suffice it to say also that his boorish behavior doesn't surprise us.
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