- - Monday, August 28, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump is wasting no time not repeating George W. Bush’s example in the wake of a storm. Mr. Bush was vacationing in Texas when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and when he flew over southern Louisiana on the way home Air Force One banked to starboard to give him a good look at a city broken, bleeding and underwater.

That wasn’t enough, and when FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, screwed up big time with the early recovery, the image of an uncaring federal government was complete. This time, with billions of dollars in damage done to Houston and the neighborhood, Mr. Trump is doing the right thing — and the right politics — by going to Houston on Tuesday, and taking Melania with him, for a look on the ground.

The organs of the magpie media are eager to set him up for failure; it’s not even necessary to read between the lines of the news accounts. But he has not been actually blamed for creating the storm and directing it to Texas. Not yet.

Mr. Trump is nevertheless taking ownership of the storm and the resolution of the pain and suffering. Federal efforts will be directed again by FEMA, this time with a holdover director. This puts the president’s reputation at risk. A president has no choice but to respond, because a president, with his command of the federal response, owns the response to a killer hurricane in the public mind, anyway. The sight of a president walking through the devastation, like Churchill walking through devastated streets in the wake of the blitz, has a calming effect, reassurance that the government is on the job. This president has no background in politics but he does have a background in construction, and knows how to get things done. He’s no stranger to the bulldozer. His presidency will be measured in no small part by his effectiveness in getting things done this time.

The private sector will do a lot, as it always does. Private charity, in institutions like the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, is already on the ground. The religious organizations, if the past is the usual reliable guide, will be there soon. Adjoining states and cities are sending firefighters and others with experience in search and rescue to assist the locals, who are overwhelmed by the size and depth of devastation.

The president, through the Twitter account that never sleeps, has provided information about where to find help and where to send assistance. All of this is part of what the public, here and abroad, counts on when disaster strikes. It’s part of what makes America the exceptional nation. In their gratitude for the good life, Americans are always ready to share their good fortune with those who need it. This is the strength of the exceptional nation, and may it be forever thus.

The president’s critics, and there are many of them, are looking for goofs and other mistakes and will try to turn any slip-ups in the Hurricane Harvey rescue operations against him, and shame on them. This is not the time for politics, but an occasion for pulling together against the wrath of nature. There will be time and opportunity later to resume partisan warfare.

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