Well, that just happened again. After a tumultuous 24 hours in Washington, Trump went to Dallas and got briefed by Texas and federal emergency management officials on recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. First, there was his ego to attend to.
“I applaud you for constantly working with me and the state of Texas to make sure we are recovered,” said Gov. Greg Abbott (R), saying Trump saw the devastation “first hand,” even though the White House basically admitted he didn't.
“The response from this administration dealing with this storm has far exceeded any previous administration in response to these storms,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said.
“This is my 12th presidential disaster declaration,” said Chief Nim Kidd, the head of Texas's emergency management department. “This has been the fastest the [Federal Emergency Management Administration] has ever moved in this process.”
Four minutes into the cameras rolling, the men in the room turned to praising the first responders, many of whom Patrick said worked for days on end without sleep while their own homes were flooded.
Then Trump jumped in on the praising of himself and his government, first by appearing to make light of a hurricane that killed more than 90 people, displaced some 30,000 and dumped more rain on the Houston area than weather forecasters could have dreamed of. Here's how Trump described Harvey: “There was never a water drop like this one.”
“I am the builder president,” he said.
“You're made for this,” someone to his left nodded in agreement.
To show off his builder-president creds, Trump then suggested Houston recovery officials take a look at a special kind of sheet rock that could prevent another Harvey. “They use it in bathtubs and showers, and water has no impact on it. And if they would use that on first floors it covers the same, you'll fix it the same — the construction guys know exactly what I'm talking about,” Trump said, waving to emergency management officials at the end of the table.
Clearly, Trump was feeling good about himself and his government's recovery efforts in Texas. In September, Trump signed a $15 billion disaster relief package into law, much of it went to Texas and Florida. He's since been criticized for not helping Puerto Rico, which was hit by two hurricanes.
Effusively praising Trump is a well-documented strategy to get on his good side.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is one of the most critical GOP senators of Trump. When he golfed with the president this month, he couldn't get enough of how good the president's swing was.
As The Post's Philip Rucker, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane reported, Graham said:
“What impressed me about the president is that he has a nice, compact swing, and he can get it up and down from jail,” Graham said. He added: “He hit the ball on the screws almost every time. He sets up behind the ball. He has an athletic swing. He goes down and gets it.”
If you want to win favor with Trump, now may be a particularly smart time to play up what you like about him. Twenty-four hours ago, a Republican senator spent 2,400 words excoriating him as “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior.” Hours earlier, another GOP senator had accused him of debasing the nation.
Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote “The Art of the Deal” with Trump, told my Post colleagues nothing is more important to Trump than feeling like he's won — even against a hurricane.
“Trump is motivated by the same concern in all situations, which is to dominate and to be perceived as having won,” Schwartz said. “That supersedes everything, including ideology.”