It looks like one of the perks of being president of the United States is getting to call your own do-overs. On Sept. 2, President Donald Trump made his second visit to Texas since Hurricane Harvey hit the state on Aug. 25, but he still couldn't manage to keep his foot out of his mouth. Donald Trump met with Hurricane Harvey survivors at the NRG Center in Houston, and told them to “have a good time.”
According to Talking Points Memo, Trump visited the shelter on Saturday to participate in relief efforts and meet with survivors, something he hadn't done during his initial visit on Tuesday, Aug. 29. During his visit to help hand out food, Trump commented that he'd been seeing “a lot of happiness,” and called the storm response “really nice.” He said,
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.
Trump also had some eye-widening response to the ongoing damage to the region. Asked about flooding, he reportedly said,
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.
As he left, he instructed reporters and survivors to "have a good time."
Those are some... interesting... choices of words. Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, has been absolutely devastating to the region. Homes are flooded, families have lost everything, and at least 47 people are believed to have been killed by the storm, according to The New York Times. About 42,000 people stayed in shelters in Texas on Thursday night, and more than 50,000 were still without power. Many areas are still flooded after more than 50 inches of rain, with certain areas, like Beaumont, expected to be at risk for some time.
So calling it "beautiful" and telling people to have a good time is kind of tacky, to say the least. Oy.
Trump hasn't been doing too great so far when it comes to his Hurricane Harvey response.
In his initial visit to Corpus Christi, Texas, Trump was criticized for not meeting with those affected by the storm at all, instead holding a sort of ad hoc miniature rally, in which he commented on crowd turnout to a group of people separated from him by a barrier. What he didn't comment on was those who had been killed or displaced by the storm, despite the fact that 13 deaths had already been confirmed. Trump said that he had chosen not to go to the harder-hit areas of Texas because he didn't want to interfere with early recovery efforts.
His wife, First Lady Melania Trump, also took flak for choosing to wear stiletto heels as the couple boarded Air Force One to head down to Texas on their initial visit. (A decision she later doubled down on, donning heels again for their second visit, though on both occasions she changed into sneakers before disembarking.)
Which is not to say the response has been all bad, however.
The New York Times referred to the reaction at the NRG Center shelter as "mostly positive," though with an (understandable) undercurrent of anxiety. One man questioned what Trump would do to help him recover his home, his job, his car, all lost in the storm. Another man, who self-identified as a Democrat, said that Trump's visit boosted morale, and that it showed his support.
Still, I can't help but think it would probably be even more supportive if Trump could manage to avoid sounding like a tactlessly overeager used car salesman for at least the span of a visit. Probably too much to hope, though.