The fact that Donald Trump went to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is not surprising. It’s been common for many years to see presidents travel to areas hard hit by disasters, meeting with officials on the ground, and offering support to victims.But reading Politico’s report, it’s clear Donald Trump can’t stop being Donald Trump.
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.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the day came when Trump marveled at the size of his audience, saying in Corpus Christi, “What a crowd, what a turnout.” Apparently, in the president’s mind, what mattered during his brief visit to Texas was the number of locals who wanted to see him.
Some initial accounts suggested Trump had made the comments to storm victims, but that wasn’t quite right – because he didn’t meet with any victims. Rather, the president thought it’d be a good idea to host an impromptu rally against the backdrop of a deadly natural disaster.
A Washington Post analysis noted, “Yet again, Trump managed to turn attention on himself.” The piece added that as of late yesterday, “the president had yet to mention those killed, call on other Americans to help or directly encourage donations to relief organizations.”
Indeed, a Dallas Morning News reporter, on hand for Trump’s brief visit, noted that the president made no mention of those killed, injured, or displaced by the storm. Former Bush/Cheney Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, hardly a liberal provocateur, conceded that empathy for the hurricane’s victims was “missing from what President Trump said.”
It was, in other words, the latest in a series of missed opportunities. The president marveled at his crowd; he reflected on the FEMA director’s media appearances and public profile; and he emphasized the magnitude of the storm in a way that kept the focus on him and his administration’s team. The Post’s piece added, “By focusing on the historic epicness of the hurricane, Trump has repeatedly turned attention to his role in confronting the disaster – a message reinforced by comments and tweets praising members of his administration.”
It’s difficult to identify the legitimate, governmental purpose of the president’s visit. If the point was to create good “optics,” Trump probably should’ve used less of his time in Texas focusing on himself.