Hurricane Harvey caused a lot of disruption on the Texas Gulf Coast. But it did not for a second disrupt the media’s collective case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. If anything, it made it worse.
For once, Donald Trump seemed to go out of his way to handle his personal response with care. He stayed away the requisite amount of time. He went to Corpus Christi and Austin rather than Houston – close enough to see the damage, but far enough away to avoid interrupting first-responder activity.
He even skipped a helicopter ride over the afflicted areas to avoid the optics President George W. Bush faced when he flew over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
He went to Texas, met with state and local officials, assured them of Washington’s support, gave a short speech to a wildly enthusiastic crowd lauding the recovery efforts and pledging Washington’s help, and then got on the plane and got back out of the way.
Did it work? Did staying inside the lines for once earn Trump any respect? Of course not.
Trump had not emoted, the media reported. He had not expressed sufficient sorrow for the victims. He had not hugged enough flood refugees. His speech and tweets were all about congratulating the government leaders involved, not expressing sympathy for the victims. The whole thing was, as GQ put it, “next-level craven.”
The cap he wore is available on his website…was he hawking his hats? Is that not an ethics violation? His wife was wearing stilettos when she left the White House. Did she not realize how that would look to people being rescued from their rooftops by motorboats?
And when she deplaned in Texas with tennis shoes on, rather than acknowledging that some people carry more than one pair of shoes on a trip, The Washington Post noted that an aide had been seen loading two Louis Vuitton suitcases onto the helicopter in Washington.
He waited too long, some said. He didn’t go soon enough, others said. He shouldn’t have gone at all, Keith Olbermann said.
“Trump’s self-serving, wasteful, exploitational (???), resource-draining, ill-conceived plan to travel to Texas in the middle of the nightmare there was beneath contempt,” Olbermann said in one of his video rants on the GQ website.
“It became frighteningly and numbingly clear the man occupying the office of president of the United States has no human empathy to give, no understanding of human tragedy, no concern for the lives of anybody in this nation except for those he knows personally…and probably not even all of those lives.”
The Washington Post, now the clear leader in the Trump Derangement Syndrome competition, didn’t think Trump spoke long enough or said any of the right things because he didn’t do it like President Barack Obama would have.
“The president’s comments, which lasted mere minutes, angered many of those who served in President Barack Obama’s administration and could not imagine their former boss ever acting like this.
“It’s not a time for crowing about crowds,” said Alyssa Mastromonaco, former deputy chief of staff of operations for Obama. “This weather event isn’t even over yet. They have no idea the damage that’s been incurred and how many people will need a place to live when this is over. It’s catastrophic, not epic.”
GQ headlined its story: “Donald Trump Went to Texas for Harvey and Didn’t Meet a Single Flood Victim.” ABC News went with, “Trump thanks Texas officials for hurricane response, barely addresses victims.” The Washington Post headlined its story: “Even in visiting hurricane-ravaged Texas, Trump keeps the focus on himself.”
These are difficult moments for presidents. Too much involvement and they seem to be grandstanding. Too little and they are labeled aloof. Try to strike the right balance, and Olbermann will say, “This individual is not, by any understanding any of us have had instinctually or by experience, a human being.”
The fact is, Trump did not do what politicians traditionally have done because he does not do what politicians traditionally have done. He does not kiss babies. He does not make the scripted gestures – and that’s all they are – that politicians have made on these occasions.
Instead, he focuses on solving the problem. He assures the public the government is not only working on it but is coordinating on all levels. He promises this will continue until the city is whole again. He projects not maudlin sorrow but hope that better times lie ahead and the assurance that competent managers are at the helm.
If there had been any disruption to the media’s collective case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, perhaps someone with a camera or notepad might have noticed. Alas, none did.
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