With an executive administration straying from historical precedent in almost every possible way, it’s become habit to say that President Donald Trump has done it again, and he has. However, I’m ecstatic to be the bearer of good news and not of the bad because when faced with a devastating natural disaster Trump has stepped up and exercised empathy and solace, two immensely important qualities that we didn’t see in 2005 when the Bush administration attended Hurricane Katrina.
Ever since the bulk of Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25, almost half a million people have been directly affected by it, 300,000 of which are stranded without power and the Federal Emergency Management Association estimates that another 30,000 people are in dire need of shelter. Harvey has poured on the Texans for nine days now, raining almost 50 inches of rain or 24.5 trillion gallons—that’s 37 million Olympic swimming pools.
Even as skies cleared and the sun shone once again in Houston on Aug. 30, floodwaters still lingered as an ever-imposing threat and the cause for an estimated $40 billion in damages.
Ingesting all of these numbers, names and synonyms for rain sounds familiar. Twelve years ago, Hurricane Katrina bore down upon New Orleans with a greater destructive force than Harvey. With the death toll leveled at 1,836, Katrina was one of the most deadly natural disasters in the history of America.
However, Katrina’s astronomical numbers are overshadowed by the political mismanagement it suffered at the hands of former President George W. Bush. While people lost their lives, homes and city, Bush was vacationing on his ranch in Texas. Only two days after Katrina made landfall did Bush acknowledge the disaster and another two passed before Bush visited the affected areas.
During this fiasco the infamous photo of Bush gazing down at the ruins of New Orleans in the comfort of Air Force One was taken. The photo became the visual embodiment of Bush’s response: isolated, disconnected and emotionally lacking. Katrina is thought to be the beginning of the end for the Bush administration. In the aftermath of the hurricane, Bush’s approval rating dropped to a new low of 42 percent and has since left a bad taste in the mouths of the American people for more than a decade.
Bush set the bar low for immediate responses to natural disasters by the executive branch. With the precedent far from satisfactory, Trump can easily exceed Bush’s response and that is exactly what he has done.
Although Trump has been somewhat subdued regarding his discourse, his response still harbors some aspects of an expected “Trump-like” response. He has kept a constant dialogue open via Twitter and although that particular medium isn’t favorable, it is a far cry from the first days of Katrina and Bush’s response or the lack thereof.
Four days after landfall, Air Force One touched down in Corpus Christi, Texas. Trump spoke out about the turmoil and devastation of the storm and left his usual jarring rhetoric behind in Washington. He shared his sorrow for the families and praised the volunteers for their hard work.
But of course this couldn’t be a true Trump outing without his mentioning of the crowd size, Trump is quoted saying “what a crowd, what a turnout!” The statement is reminiscent of the Trump we have all become accustomed to. However inconsiderate this might be, the positive aspects of his response far outweigh the blip of insensitivity and the accentuated Trump style that momentarily surfaced.
After all is said and done, it is refreshing to see the more presidential side of Trump. His current actions are instilling hope in Harvey victims and me, due to the possibility that this response may be the precedent that Trump acts on in the future.