Donning blue work gloves and dispensing hugs, Vice President Mike Pence cleared storm debris and comforted Texans grappling with the aftermath of Harvey’s destruction on Thursday, bringing a more personal touch to the hurricane zone than President Donald Trump did during his visit two days earlier.
Sleeves rolled up, Pence briefly walked door-to-door in Rockport, a small tourist town where Harvey first slammed ashore as a Category 4 hurricane. The extent of the ruin could be measured in the mounds of black garbage bags heaped outside nearly every home, and Pence — wearing jeans and cowboy boots — worked up a sweat in the 90-degree heat as he helped clear tree limbs at one boarded-up residence.
“We’re going to stay with you every step until we bring southeast Texas back bigger and better than ever before,” Pence promised the crowd that gathered at a church blown wide open by Harvey’s force. The vice president’s wife, Karen Pence, offered a prayer seeking blessings for those affected by the storm, and people later broke into singing “God Bless America.”
Brittany Naro, a new mother from Corpus Christi, was on hand at one of the homes that Pence visited and said his presence meant a lot, “because this is devastating.”
Speaking of both Pence and Trump, she added: “They didn’t have to come. What more can you ask for?”
While Pence’s visit, which also included a tour of the area aboard a V-22 Osprey military aircraft, was all about making personal connections with storm victims and volunteers helping on the recovery effort, Trump focused on meeting with state and local emergency management officials during his visit to Corpus Christi and Austin two days earlier.
The president also gave a short, impromptu speech to cheering supporters who had gathered outside the fire station where he received a briefing in Corpus Christi.
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump declared, attesting to the fortitude of Texans. The president capped his speech by waving a Texas flag.
The president drew some criticism for not directly mentioning the loss of life and suffering of hurricane victims during his visit. He tweeted Wednesday that after seeing “first hand the horror & devastation” wrought by Harvey “my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!”
Trump, however, saw little damage during his visit to Corpus Christi — mostly boarded-up windows, a few downed tree limbs and fences askew. He also visited the state emergency management operations…