Trump visited Texas Tuesday to view the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey and – ostensibly – to offer comfort to those impacted by the worst flood that has hit the region in decades.
But the embattled and deeply unpopular president quickly made the whole ordeal about himself.
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump told those gathered to hear the president discuss the ongoing natural disaster still raging around them. His tone better suited for a campaign rally, Trump did what he knows best: aggrandizing himself regardless of the context and the expectations placed on him based on political norms and human decency.
Then, appearing on TV with FEMA Director Brock Long, the Donald abruptly turned the conversation to television ratings, perhaps his most shallow measure of success. Long is “a man who’s really become very famous on television over the last couple of days,” Trump said bizarrely.
To top things off, the presidential trip avoided any direct interaction with storm victims. Take this searing report from Politico:
It was a presidential trip to a deluged state where the president didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street.
But the daylong visit, during which President Donald Trump spent far more time in the air than on the ground, gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted, as he checked in on the government apparatus working on relief efforts and was buoyed by a roaring crowd of locals.
Recall after Hurricane Sandy when Barack Obama and Chris Christie – two individuals on opposite sides of the political spectrum – made joint visits to people impacted by the storm in New Jersey?
Such compassion seems like a basic necessity for any political leader. But for Trump – like many other responsibilities of the presidency – it has proven just too much.