Everything I’m reading about Trump vis Ã vis Harvey keeps saying he’s avoiding making Dubya’s Katrina mistakes. For example, he insisted on scheduling a trip to Texas even as the rains were still falling —
Mr. Trump, his aides say, is eager to avoid the mistakes made by President George W. Bush in 2005, when he took a relatively hands-off approach to the federal response toÂ Hurricane KatrinaÂ in Louisiana.
Even though Vice President Mike Pence and federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security have taken the lead on negotiating many of the details of the response, Mr. Trump has taken pains to emphasize his personal involvement in the crisis.
He’s even trying to improve on the optics —
Trump likely will avoid replicating a George W. Bush moment â€” the former president deeply regretted the images taken of him flying over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as the optics made him look detached from the victims. Sanders told reporters she was unsure as to whether the president would fly over Houston but said due to scattered showers, there are no plans to helicopter while in Texas.
As I remember, the problem Bush had wasn’t with the photos; it was that he was photographed looking at Katrina damage from a plane window, and then he went back to Washington and did nothing until his aides started screaming at him about it.
So Trump wants to be seen doing something about Texas. The problem is, that strutting around in front of cameras is not the same thing as doing something. People ultimately will judge Trump by results, not by optics.
People will cut their politicians some slack for a couple of days. They’re relieved to be alive. But after a few days of being confined to a shelter with clogged toilets, not enough food and no changes of clothes, they start to get irritated. Right now the Houston Convention Center may be turning into the New Orleans Super Bowl II. Let’s hope not.
Trump is fortunate that his director of FEMA, Brock Long, has a background in emergency management, unlike the unfortunate Michael Brown. But Trump has already made one Bush mistake by praising the “great job” his people were doing before they’d done enough to be graded. Â If relief efforts get bogged down somewhere, that could come back and bite Trump.
Further, the Trumps have already made one optical mistake. Here they are getting ready to fly to Corpus Christi this morning —
Melania is getting slammed for the stiletto heels. She changed into white tennies on the plane — white, Melania? Not expecting to go anywhere muddy? Some have pointed out that Trump’s off-white chinos probably weren’t a smart choice, either. But I’m looking forward to his showing up in Houston wearing a tool belt in a few months.
The real test isn’t going to be how the Trumps are photographed. The real test is if people can see that work is being done to relieve their immediate suffering and rebuild what was destroyed. The latter will take years, yes. But will the rebuilding effort under a Trump administration avoid the waste, fraud, political favoritism and general boondoggling that marked the federal government’s Katrina efforts? Will Trump be able to pass up using Harvey to make a buck for his own businesses? This is Trump we’re talking about, remember.
Houston, you have a problem …