It’s been difficult to find positives in the combative presidency of Donald J. Trump, but it must be said that on Tuesday, the president was, well, presidential in his visit to Texas to demonstrate support for the people of the Texas Gulf Coast region overwhelmed by the rains and floods of Hurricane Harvey, which then morphed into Tropical Storm Harvey.
Trump went to Texas promptly, probably as soon as it was safe enough for him to get there. Some media reports noted his rather peculiar reference to the size of the crowd to which he spoke in Corpus Christi — Trump does like a crowd — and apparently there were other references to the heels worn by first lady Melania Trump, but those things seem insignificant. Trump got to Texas quickly, made the appropriate promises of help and surveyed the damage. He is not eloquent by nature in terms of expressing empathy for the victims of a record rainfall, but the fact is that showing up on site was important, and Trump did that.
When President George W. Bush appeared slow to respond to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, he took heat for the remainder of his presidency, and future presidents have learned from it. Now the test for Trump will be to see how his administration will do in providing for victims, and whether or not, for example, Trump’s advisers are savvy enough to understand they can escape the trap of Trump’s promise of a wall — and his threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for it — by rightly putting money behind the Harvey recovery instead.