Donald Trump is famous for his fascination with scale — there’s a reason his singular pronunciation of “yuge” has entered the public consciousness. And when it comes to reacting to one of the worst hurricanes to hit the United States in over a decade, Trump’s rhetoric has retained its usual bombastic tone, expressing fascination with the hurricane’s size and singularity, rather than empathy for its victims.
Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
Trump’s mentions of the suffering in Houston — or the flood’s five known victims — were scant compared to the attention he paid to Harvey’s size.
It’s a troubling perspective. But, as Samantha Montano notes in another Vox piece — the real test of Trump’s ability to handle Harvey lies not in his immediate public response but in the weeks and months ahead. (And, she notes, most emergency management occurs at the state and local levels, independently from the president). A well-organized federal government — one that can liaise with local authorities and effectively communicate with both other organizations and the public at large — is vital.
The actions of the President can most definitely negatively influence emergency management. This lesson was painfully learned during Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans levee failure. As a general rule, it’s not good to go into any crisis, including a major hurricane with a federal government in turmoil.
Unfortunately, Trump’s obsession with high-profile destruction isn’t limited to his tweets on Harvey. His promises to “drain the swamp,” however unfulfilled in practice, have nevertheless resulted in a chaotic, disorganized administration. It is this, Montano suggests, more than any individual tweet, could have the power to negatively affect the Harvey recovery effort for years to come.