Attempting to get ahead of a media narrative of “presidential failure,” Trump has been making public appearances and trying to get assistance to Hurricane Harvey’s victims:
President Donald Trump cupped a boy’s face in his hands and then gave him a high-five. He snapped on latex gloves to hand out boxed lunches of hot dogs and potato chips. And he loaded relief supplies into vehicles, patted storm victims on the shoulder and declared the work “good exercise.”
An upbeat and optimistic president visited with victims of Harvey on Saturday, touring a Houston mega-shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and briefly walking streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions. Trump met the scene with positivity, congratulating officials on an emergency response still in progress and telling reporters that he’d seen “a lot of love” and “a lot of happiness” in the devastation the storm left behind.
“As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing,” Trump said of the Harvey response after spending time with displaced children inside NRG Center, an emergency refuge housing about 1,800 evacuees.
The trip, to Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana, was Trump’s second to survey Harvey’s wake and a chance for a president to strike a more sympathetic tone. He’d rushed to Texas on Tuesday, heading to Corpus Christi and Austin to talk to first responders. “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he’d said as he stood outside a firehouse.
As Trump visited, the Houston area was still burying its dead and trying to contain the mess. Nearby Beaumont, Texas, population 120,000, was struggling to restore its drinking water. Firefighters in Crosby, outside of Houston, were warily eyeing the Arkema chemical plant, twice the scene of explosions. Floodwaters had inundated at least seven highly contaminated toxic waste sites in the Houston area, raising concerns about creeping pollution.
Harvey is blamed for at least 43 deaths and believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County. The American Red Cross said more than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters such as the one Trump visited.