It is late Thursday morning as I write this article. You can’t possibly read it until early Sunday morning. I doubt the situation in Texas and Louisiana will be completely under control by Sunday. Yet on Tuesday President Trump visited Texas purportedly to tour the damage Hurricane Harvey had inflicted on the Lone Star State and bring aid with him. Instead he turned it into an infomercial to sell a hat. The constraints of time and space will not allow me to review everything he did wrong. Nonetheless I invite you along to explore with me.
Any President is somewhat between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the timing of visiting a disaster site. Donald Trump is no exception. While I think Tuesday’s visit was premature and diverted precious resources from helping the victims to protecting the President for the most part I am willing to give him a pass on that. If that were either my only or main complaint I would have chosen a different topic to write about today.
Over the weekend we were treated to photo-ops of what was portrayed as a concerned President staying abreast of the tragedy inexplicably wearing a hat indoors while simultaneously wearing a suitcoat. I’m far from a fashion consultant but that is a perplexing juxtaposition of attire to me!
Fast forward to Tuesday and the President boards air transportation wearing the same hat. I guess he may have been anticipating rain in DC so perhaps it made sense. Off the plane in Corpus Christi, Texas (220 miles from Houston which by that time was pretty much ground zero) and we see the same hat. Later we see Trump in meetings that are held indoors (no threat of rain) and we see the same hat.
Apparently the President was too busy deferring congratulation to himself and Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott because he couldn’t find time to meet with a single victim of the storm. Not a handshake, kissing of a baby or petting of a dog. However, Trump did make time to address a small crowd (which he verbally marveled at the size of). If I were Trump I would beware of a, “Hell of a job, Brownie” moment.
From the start we knew that the Trump budget was DOA on Capitol Hill, but interestingly it contains massive funding cuts for virtually every agency that Trump is promising to deliver relief funding via. Must be my “math deficiency” but I’m having a difficult time reconciling those sets of facts.
I lack the scientific expertise to declare what degree climate change played in the severity of Harvey, but to deny any positive correlation would be foolish. Houston is a warm place in the summer. The Gulf of Mexico is between two and three degrees warmer than normal this summer and sea level has consistently risen for several years now. All those factors contribute to wetter and more severe storms. Only about a week before Harvey reached landfall Trump rescinded an Obama era directive for agencies to factor climate change into their predictive models. Planning with reality in mind is prudent; ignoring reality is neither intelligent nor productive.
In Trump’s mind the entire event was a photo-op. He brought along some of the Cabinet members he needs to keep loyal in case the 25th Amendment gets serious consideration. The deplaning photo-ops included HUD Secretary Ben Carson, HHS Secretary Tom Price and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon. Is it just me or can you think of an administration other than the current one where any of them could be a Cabinet officer?
Trump thinks in terms of crowd size and television ratings. He “praised” FEMA Acting Director, Brock Long, claiming he was going to be famous and implying it was because of all the camera time he was getting. Mr. President: this was a time to be concerned about people, not Nielsen ratings.
The hat Trump was modeling is a cheap, one-size-fits-all adjustable model with USA on the front, an American flag on the left side and 45 on the right side (no doubt what those numerals signify). It is available on Trump’s political website for $40. Trump used the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey to help raise funds for his supposed 2020 reelection campaign, or more likely his and his family’s legal defense fund. (Trump has a long history of using other people’s money for his personal benefit.)
Houston Police Sergeant Steve Perez gave his life in an attempt to get to work to help save the lives of the citizens he was sworn to protect and serve. Donald Trump exploited a natural disaster that harmed his constituents in an effort to sell an overpriced hat the proceeds of which directly benefit him. There is an expression in Texas: All hat and no cattle. Basically it means that someone is all malarkey and no substance. You decide who it applies to.
A moment of personal privilege
On a sad, unrelated note I wanted to recognize the passing of Rollie Massimino. Coach Mass and I first met in the late ‘80’s when I worked his summer basketball camp at Villanova. He was one of the most famous Division I head basketball coaches in the country having recently won a national championship. I was a lowly Division III assistant coach yet he treated me with the utmost respect. If I had to describe him in one word it would be warm. Simply put, we lost a good man.
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