Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Seems Hurricane Harvey isn't done with Houston yet. The category 4 storm circled over Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana to end up in the Gulf of Mexico again, where it has gathered strength once more and is aiming back to the same coastline, sure to dump even more torrential rains on the low lying regions. Into this maelstrom goes Donald Trump aboard Air Force One in an effort to put on his best presidential face after spending most of last week blowing up his ego rather than getting FEMA ground crews in place for Harvey's first landfall.
Trump will use another Tuesday to deliver a speech to the waterlogged Texans and Louisianans who have to deal with unprecedented floods. Hopefully it goes better than his Phoenix rally, which once again had pundits and politicians questioning his judgement, especially after he delivered on his vow to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio this past Friday. If Congress has any notion to impeach the president, Roger Stone warned them of insurrection among Trump ranks.
Right now, Americans are mostly concerned about what is happening in Houston, a major city that finds itself mostly underwater after more than 30 inches of rain. For the fundamentalists, the flood appeared of Biblical proportions, as the waters rose above the 500 year floodplain. One would like to think more people will now take global warming seriously, even if the president does not. Two weeks ago, Trump rescinded Obama's executive order to create stronger building restrictions in flood zones.
As you might recall, this executive order presaged the roll out of his new infrastructure plans at Trump Tower, but got lost in the angry firestorm of comments and tweets that followed his press conference. He's spent the better part of the last two weeks reeling from his Charlottesville comments. Last Tuesday didn't help matters, as he was as belligerent as ever in Phoenix and Friday delivered on his promise to free Sheriff Joe despite the protests of his own justice department.
The week probably would have been better spent gearing up for Harvey. Instead, an awestruck Donald resorted to twitter to offer a running commentary of the encroaching storm rather than making sure his FEMA crews were in place to deal with the aftermath. As it turned out, FEMA and just about everyone else was overwhelmed by the deluge, with thousands of volunteers coming to the rescue in their bass boats, kayaks and jet skis to help get stranded residents out of their homes.
As with New Orleans, not only was FEMA slow to react but so too was the mayor of Houston, who didn't think an evacuation order was necessary. Donald now has a Texas-sized mess to clean up or his name will be mud, even among his own constituency, which is still waiting for him to deliver on his many promises.
If the Phoenix rally was any indication, Trump's ranks are diminishing. He can blame George Gigicos for the sparse crowd but fact is just about everyone is tiring of the Donald and his antics. This is his last chance to make things right by overseeing a speedy recovery effort in Houston and its surroundings, not letting it drag out for years as was the case with New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This storm will either make or break him.
Trump seems to know the stakes here, but does he have the resolve and the forces to muster bold action? Mostly, he is counting on his generals to deliver for him. He recently pulled Gen. Kelly from Homeland Security to serve as his Chief of Staff, leaving the task of managing FEMA to Elaine Duke. Trump's White House is still in transition and not fully prepared to deal with crises of this magnitude. This will literally be a trial by storm.