HOUSTON (AP) — President Donald Trump cupped a boy’s face in his hands and then gave him a high-five. He lifted a girl into his arms to give her a kiss. He snapped on latex gloves to hand out boxed lunches of hot dogs and potato chips.
On his visit to a shelter for storm victims Saturday, the president declared he sees “a lot of love” in the wake of devastation left by Harvey.
“We saw a lot of happiness,” he told reporters after he and first lady Melania Trump greeted children in the kids’ zone in NRG Center, an emergency refuge for people who were forced out of their homes. “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing.”
It was his second trip to Texas in a week, and this time his first order of business was to meet with those affected by the record-setting rainfall and flooding. He’s also set to survey some of the damage and head to Lake Charles, Louisiana, another hard-hit area.
That interaction was missing from Tuesday’s trip to Texas, which was criticized as being off-key for a presidential visit to discuss communities in crisis.
In Corpus Christi and Austin, Trump sat with emergency responders and officials who were coordinating recovery efforts with his administration. The event was marked by Trump’s impromptu speech to supporters outside a Corpus Christi firehouse — “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he said — instead of images of the president consoling victims or walking among the damage caused by the storm.
Trump at that time kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage, in Houston, to avoid disrupting recovery operations. Still, critics said he failed to adequately express compassion for the families of those killed in the storm’s path or those whose homes were flooded. He raised eyebrows when he predicted his approach would be a model for future presidents to emulate.
“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.'”
“There was a lot of high-fiving about how well this disaster was being handled even as people were on their rooftops hoping to be rescued,” said David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Barack Obama. “People need to know that their president is emotionally engaged in their struggle, and part of the obligation or the responsibility of a president, particularly in a media age, is to make that human connection.”
Trump later voiced more direct concern for those caught up in the storm. At the start of a speech in Missouri on…