- - Tuesday, September 5, 2017


President Donald Trump changed a lot of minds last week.

Trump traveled to Houston on Saturday to meet with victims of the devastating Hurricane Harvey, playing with children in an evacuation center and handing out food and necessary supplies to those hit hardest by the natural disaster.

Mr. Trump thanked volunteers and first responders, passing out food with his wife, Melania. The president, who mainstream media outlets have said lacked “empathy” during the early days of the hurricane, hugged and kissed little children in the “kid zone” at Houston’s NRG Center, a massive facility that has become the city’s largest emergency shelter.

“The message is that things are working out well,” Mr. Trump said at the center. “Really, I think people appreciate what’s been done. It’s been done very efficiently, very well, and that’s what we want. We’re very happy with the way everything is going. A lot of love. There’s a lot of love.”

Asked what families had told him as he moved through the center, Mr. Trump said: “They were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness. It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

The trip seems to have picked Mr. Trump up in the polls. Rasmussen had Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 41 percent before the trip, 44 percent after.

At his first stop, Mr. Trump was asked about what he saw from the window of Air Force One as he flew in.

“The flooding? Oh, yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of water, but it’s leaving pretty quickly. But there’s a lot of water, a lot of water, but it’s moving out. But I think, most importantly, the governor, the relationship with the governor, the mayor and everybody, it’s been fantastic. And with the federal government. We’re signing a lot of documents now to get money into your state — $7.9 billion. We signed it, and now it’s going through a very quick process.”

Mr. Trump took pictures with volunteers and chatted with victims of the storm, alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. At one point Mr. Trump leaned down and cupped a little boy’s face while the two spoke — and then gave him a high five. He lifted a little girl up and gave her a kiss, one pool report said.

Mr. Trump declared Sunday a national day of prayer, then went to a church in nearby Pearland, where he and the first lady helped load cars with boxes of supplies for victims. He said the volunteer work was “good exercise.”

More than 50 inches of rain pounded Texas as Harvey came ashore, went back into the Gulf of Mexico, and came back again for one more strike. The president on Friday asked Congress for an initial $7.85 billion to cover relief and recovery efforts.

“TEXAS: We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD!” Trump tweeted just after landing on Saturday.

On his second stop in Texas on Saturday, Mr. Trump visited a church in Houston that is being used as a distribution center. He offered congratulations to Mr. Abbott on the recovery effort and said Texas will rise to the huge challenge.

“I want to congratulate the governor. I want to congratulate everybody who has worked so hard. It’s been an incredible five days, six days. Seems like it was much longer, but it’s going so well that it’s going fast,” he said.

Inside First Church of Pearland, Elaine Ybarra, 41, who was holding her 10-year-old son, Chris, said: “It’s quite humbling to have somebody of his stature come to this church.”

“Him being here and bringing global attention to everything that’s going on here, he brings up prayers from around the world.”

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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