Hi, friends. Here's a good list of ways you can help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
– Aubrey Whelan
President Trump is in Texas this morning, surveying hurricane-recovery efforts as Houston-area residents brace for another several days of rain from Hurricane Harvey. At least 10 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced, with that number expected to rise. In the meantime, Trump has been busy — in the middle of wrangling disaster declarations, he also made a controversial pardon, signed a directive on his transgender military ban and sent … a whole lot of tweets.
I'm going to dispense with arguments about whether or not to talk politics re: a natural disaster. Like it or not, these things are political, whether it's in debates about climate change, or in the way low-lying, flood-prone areas are also home to cities' most impoverished residents, or in the way our leaders talk about a disaster. So it may be instructive to take a look at how Donald Trump talked about the last natural disaster that hit closest to our home — Hurricane Sandy, in 2012.
A day after Sandy crashed into the Jersey Shore:
He touted the fact that Trump Tower remained open during the storm:
and reminded his followers that he had offered Obama $5 million toward his favorite charity if he'd release his birth certificate.
Disaster response, as George W. Bush well knows, can define a presidency. POLITICO notes this morning that Trump is talking about Harvey in the same kinds of branding terms that have defined his presidency so far: "Even while he has pledged quick financial assistance from the federal government, he has appeared unable to stop himself from marveling at the strength and size of the storm." And he's courted controversy by tying his pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the storm: "In the middle of a hurricane… I assumed the ratings would be far higher," he said Monday.
The recovery efforts Trump will lead are about far more than rhetoric, of course — and after Monday-morning quarterbacking other politicians' disaster responses for years, Trump finally has the chance to stand in water and rain today like a real president. Here's a good rundown from Vox on what he needs to do next.