Flashback: When Obama Monitored Storm Flooding from Martha’s Vineyard

Media attack Trump for not meeting victims in Texas, covered for predecessor's golf outings during crisis

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 30 Aug 2017 at 9:09 PM

President Donald Trump has weathered intense criticism in the mainstream media for allegedly not showing compassion during his visit to the flood-ravaged coast of Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“The President didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain, or get near a flooded street. He spent far more time in the air than on the ground,” said Politico.

The line was eagerly read and cited by MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on Wednesday’s edition of “Morning Joe.”

Also appearing on “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, Princeton professor Eddie Glaude complained, “The human element seemed to be absent outside of the self-congratulatory gestures of the press conference. It seems to me, he’s just concerned about optics. And I wish they would be concerned about people.”

Said NBC political reporter Carol Lee during the same panel discussion: "There's three things the president would typically do in a situation like this, and that is reassure people that services are coming and everything's going to be okay, you try to inspire them, which we saw the president do by holding the flag and saying the Texans are going to come back better than ever, and then it's empathize and then it's very striking that he didn't mention the number of people who have died or even try to empathize with the fact that people are genuinely suffering. [Trump] missed the mark yesterday."

Appearing on "The Daily Show" Tuesday night, MSNBC correspondent Joy-Ann Reid told host Trevor Noah that she doesn't "think Trump understands the human scale of misery — I don't think he can connect with the sort of compassion you have when you see a disaster like this."

The criticism of how Trump handled a visit to the region comes almost exactly one year after Louisiana also experienced devastating flooding. President Obama was vacationing in Martha's Vineyard at the time, and while he took time out of his day to be briefed on the situation, he promptly returned to playing golf afterwards. He was heavily criticized in the conservative press and local media in Louisiana — but mainstream national outlets largely gave him a pass.

"We've seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don't deserve a sequel. In 2005, a flyover by a vacationing President George W. Bush became a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The current president was among those making political hay out of Bush's aloofness," wrote The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's editorial board of Obama.

"Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don't see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It's past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans," it wrote.

Not only did the mainstream media not join in The Advocate's condemnation of Obama, but they defended the former president. "Obama just doesn't like to fake it. If he doesn't want to do something or thinks it's stupid to do it — regardless of whether it actually is stupid — he won't do it," wrote Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

"That's why Obama won't break off his vacation in Martha's Vineyard — or stop playing golf on said vacation — to travel to Louisiana. Because he believes he can monitor the situation as well — or better — from where he is. And that the sole reason to go to Louisiana is for the theatrical piece of politics, a piece that he not only rejects but detests," he wrote.

The perception of Trump's visit, like Obama's decision to stay on vacation, differed vastly with those on the ground from those in the national mainstream media.

"The coordination at the federal, state, and local level has been as good as in any tragedy that we've seen in the United States," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox News on Tuesday night. "I spent the day with the president, but today wasn't the first day that I talked to him about this storm. I talked to them before the hurricane even hit Texas," Abbott said.

"From the White House to his Cabinet, we planned to prepare for these days before the hurricane even came up. Then we mustered up resources and personnel, food and water and shelter. All across the affected area," he said. This has been done because the president took action swiftly, early, coordinated with the state of Texas in a way far superior than I have ever seen in the hurricane tragedy."

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