Harvey provides brief hope in Trump’s tumultuous presidency

Alisha Griffin, Contributing Writer

Bush had Katrina. Obama had Sandy. Trump has Harvey.

Executive figures are always gauged by how they handle natural disasters. There are no political groups to point the blame at, no banks and corporations to vaguely persecute, no foreign ideologies and religions to sweep under the rug; a disaster such as this is the fault of no one. Instead, leaders are marked by how quickly they respond to the event and how effective their response is to helping the victims.

Former President George W. Bush’s delayed reaction to Hurricane Katrina greatly damaged his political capital. His actions were a clear portrait to politicians and their staff of what not to do for disasters of this magnitude. At the time of the hurricane’s landfall, the president was spending vacation on his ranch in Texas. His aides, reluctant to worry the president with news of the devastating storm, delayed initially informing the president after Katrina had hit New Orleans. Even then, he did not want to visit any of the affected locations, claiming he did not want to divert security and communications efforts on himself. An infamous picture exists of Bush on Air Force One, viewing the devastation with an apparently “detached and uncaring” look. Needless to say, Bush regretted those actions.

With the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast, I had hoped we would see President Donald Trump as a more responsive figure. I somewhat hoped that at least for a brief moment, he would be unfettered by the normal demonization from the left and idolization from the right. Perhaps, in a brief moment of joining from the country, we’d forget the strain between all axes of the political spectrum.

Instead, every political group threw insults at the figureheads of the other: leftists mocked First Lady Melania Trump’s choice of shoewear, right-wing advocates railed on the media for targeting victims in an attempt to show sad imagery on TV.

This isn’t to say that Trump’s visit to Texas was an utter failure. Trump wisely learned from the mistakes of his Republican predecessor. He arrived even while Harvey was still active in Texas. Trump praised the work of relief effort groups, but not prematurely, as Bush did. But there is no evidence that Trump’s visit to Texas nor his actions there have changed anyone’s opinion on him, as his approval rating only increased by about 1 percent, according to Gallup.

Trump went through the motions of a good response, but there were some moments where he appeared to lack empathy. When arriving in Corpus Christi, Texas, he addressed the crowd as if it was one of his rallies, exclaiming “What a turnout!” If Trump is an expert at anything, it’s certainly praising a crowd—something his critics should take note of. Many people saw Trump in a new light, away from the barrier of the media. Were their political ideologies changed? Perhaps not. But were they uplifted for a brief moment? The cheers at Trump’s arrival say so.

Breaking away from comments of politics and world news, I encourage the readers of The Bucknellian to donate at least $1 to any charity you see fit. This isn’t a far off country that has been hit; this is Texas. While Lewisburg is over a thousand miles away from the devastation, we can do our part as Americans to support those in need for we never know when or where tragedy might strike. If we are going to “Make America Great Again,” we need to support our fellow citizens in their time of need.

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