Op-Ed: Trump fails to lead on Hurricane Harvey

Sen. Sanders holding a wreath, standing on Rockaway Beach, in remembrance of Hurricane Sandy.


As I watched the images of the devastation caused in Texas by Hurricane Harvey, I could not help but remember when Hurricane Sandy ravaged Far Rockaway, destroying homes and flooding streets. I am a Marine Corps veteran and life-long Far Rockaway resident and, of course, the state elected representative for the area. Rather than evacuate, I chose to shelter in place, because I did not want to leave my constituents alone to fend for themselves.

Armed with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and an ax just in case my house got so badly flooded, I needed to chop through the roof; I felt the experience of Hurricane Sandy first-hand. I believe that exercise allowed me to sympathize more closely with those who needed post-storm help and what they were going through both physically and financially.

Now, why would I tell you this story at this time?

It is not because we are approaching the 5th anniversary of Sandy, but because of how disappointed I was in the way President Donald Trump handled the Hurricane Harvey situation and his visit to Texas. It was reminiscent of George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina, when Kanye West so appropriately said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

This time I believe it is about class rather than race. We have poor and working class, primarily white folk in need of aid.  During his short visit to Texas, where Trump was reportedly checking on the government response to the disaster, he did not go to the severely affected areas nor meet firsthand with storm victims, according to published reports.

But that did not stop the Commander-in-Chief from tweeting the following falsehood:  “After witnessing firsthand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas.” Those are not the words of a leader. Those are the words of a president seeking to cover up his poor choices.

President Trump, you should be on the ground in Texas, working with the relief effort, and visiting the shelters. Roll up your sleeves. Your actions in response to Hurricane Harvey just amplifies how out of touch you are with the common man, and what’s worse you don’t want to make the effort to bridge that gap.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump’s “first-hand” account of Harvey was a lie, because that “first-hand” account consisted of meeting with state and local officials on the ground, and receiving detailed briefings – not talking directly to victims. Trump also dug himself into a deeper hole by posting a photo of himself on Instagram “witnessing” the devastation, but which showed him looking at a radar image of the lone star state.

Protecting the nation and standing by its people during times of crisis are among the most pivotal moments of an American president’s term and can sometimes define his legacy. Trump needs to get himself together and learn how to be a leader because he doesn’t have many chances left.

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