(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) — With flag-waving optimism, President Donald Trump answered Harvey’s wrath Tuesday by offering in-person assurances to those in the storm zone that his administration will work tirelessly to help the region recover from the massive flooding and storm-inflicted destruction.
“We are going to get you back and operating immediately,” Trump told an impromptu crowd that gathered outside a Corpus Christi fire station about 30 miles from where the storm made landfall Friday.
For all of his eagerness to get the federal disaster response right, though, Trump missed clear opportunities to strike a sympathetic note for multitudes who are suffering. The president did not mention those who died in the storm or those forced from their homes by its floodwaters. And he basked in the attention of cheering supporters outside the fire station where officials briefed him on the recovery.
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump declared before waving a Texas flag from atop a step ladder positioned between two fire trucks. “This is historic. It’s epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”
Trump is clearly determined to seize the moment and show a forceful response to Harvey, mindful of the political opportunities and risks that natural disasters pose for any president. Trump has been suffering from low approval ratings and self-created crises, and the White House is eager to show him as a forceful leader in a time of trouble.
The president kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage in Houston to avoid disrupting recovery operations. But he plans to return to the region Saturday to survey the damage and meet with some of the storm’s victims, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“This is all about people and making sure that we’re taking care of the people of Texas,” she said. “That’s his number one priority.”
What little damage Trump saw — boarded-up windows, downed tree limbs and fences askew — was through the tinted windows of his SUV as his motorcade ferried him from the Corpus Christi airport to the firehouse in a city that’s already nearly back to normal.
Trump spoke optimistically about the pace of the recovery, and predicted his response would be a textbook case for future presidents.
“We want to do it better than ever before,” he said. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, ‘This is the way to do it.’”
Then it was on…