As the magnitude of damage done by Hurricane Harvey becomes clear, the commentariat class is already weighing in on President Trump’s response. And so far, so good.
Trump is under the microscope of the biased media, and it is eager to pounce on any flaws in his response to Harvey. For now, the most credible critique comes from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) who said: “I give FEMA a grade of A+, all the way from the president down.”
But the question on everyone’s mind is how long will the president be able to maintain his poise. Will Trump pull a Trump and spoil the moment? Will he tweet something wildly inappropriate? Will he spit out a jaw-dropping, demoralizing non-sequitur insult at exactly the wrong time? Who will he pick a fight with? Hmmm.
Anyway, I thought this might be a good time to consult my friend and business partner, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who was one of the heroes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. In his book “America’s Great Storm” Barbour details Mississippi’s immediate response to Katrina and the years of recovery that followed.
When I asked him about some of the most important lessons learned, one of Barbour’s first thoughts was that “Texas will be recovering from this storm for years to come. The state and local governments have to work together and the governor has to lead. Nobody else can lead.” And with respect to the White House’s response, he said: “The federal government has to be a good partner to Texas just like they were after Katrina and Sandy. The federal government won’t do everything perfectly, but it must be there and for the long haul.”
Undoubtedly, there will be Republican hand-wringing about cost and precedent and Democrats will overreach on spending and micromanagement. While the real recovery will take years, Trump needs to stay engaged and care about some details for months before his chapter in the history of Harvey is written. There will never be enough and Trump will have to pick winners and losers.
There haven’t been any blunders, wild tweets or pointless distractions yet. The Trump administration is off to a good start. But this is just the beginning.