President Trump hasn’t had a lot to congratulate himself for in the early months of his presidency.
The Senate tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act three different times. Trump had one infrastructure week hijacked when the FBI director he fired testified in front of Congress. He lost control of another infrastructure week when he decided to say some “very fine people” marched at a rally for white supremacists, KKK members, and neo-Nazis. He’s lost his press secretary, his chief strategist, a national security adviser, his chief of staff, and his communications director, plus he almost started a nuclear war.
Oh, and remember that one time his son tweeted out emails showing proof of a campaign meeting with a Russian government lawyer?
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Over the weekend, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but the damage isn’t over yet. Houston is quite literally under water, and people have been trapped in their homes and their cars.
— Wes Callison (@WesCallisonTNN) August 29, 2017
People are being brought to shelters in dump trucks, while others have driven hours to bring their boats to Houston to save lives. The rain is still pounding Texas and is expected to move into Louisiana to continue its reign of terror.
— Daniel Gotera (@DTGoteraKHOU) August 29, 2017
The fatalities have already reached the double digits, and some have begun to express concern about how many more bodies will be found when the water finally recedes.
— AccuWeather (@breakingweather) August 29, 2017
The storm has come with unprecedented magnitude, and Trump is, to be blunt, gleeful. The president has, after seven long months, found something for which to congratulate himself.
On Tuesday, Trump went to Texas for a briefing on the storm, where he introduced Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director William Brock Long as “a man who really has become very famous on television in the last couple of days.”
Trump thanking FEMA dir William Brock Long: "A man who really has become very famous on television in the last couple of days." #Harvey
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) August 29, 2017
In his comments after the televised briefing, Trump said in five years, 10 years, he wants people to look at the Trump administration’s response to natural disaster as “the way to do it.”
“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this and I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us,” Trump said.
He then thanked Gov. Greg Abbott (R), adding, “We won’t say congratulations. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to congratulate. We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished, but you have been terrific. You really have. You’ve been my friend.”
Trump: "We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/KmtyvxsTcL
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 29, 2017
A reporter from Houston also noted that something was mysteriously missing from Trump’s comments Tuesday: any mention of the dead or displaced.
— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) August 29, 2017
The pool report, which is sent a document of the president’s day sent to all reporters covering him by those traveling with him, noted the same.
“Reporters heard no mention of the dead, dying or displaced Texans and no expression of sympathy for them. The message was services are coming and Texans will be OK,” the report said.
David Axelrod, who worked as President Obama’s chief strategist, railed against Trump on Tuesday, tweeting that his remarks ended “without a word of concern or empathy from @POTUS for the many, many Americans who are trapped in a watery hell.”
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 29, 2017
In all of his public statements since Harvey made landfall, Trump has mentioned the victims just once.
“I want to begin today by extending my thoughts and prayers for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophe of flooding and all of the other difficulties that they’re currently going through in Houston, in southeast Texas,” Trump said at a press conference Monday. “Now it’s looking more and more like the state of Louisiana will be also affected.”
But those brief remarks, as of Tuesday afternoon, are the extent of his empathy.
Trump, a notorious tweeter, has certainly addressed the storm, but all of his tweets have been about just how historic the storm is.
“Record setting rainfall,” he tweeted Saturday.
“Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen,” he tweeted Sunday.
“Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” he said Sunday afternoon.
“Even experts have said they’ve never seen one like this!” he added later.
Perhaps his most unsettling tweet came Sunday night. “HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!” he said.
HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
Harvey has devastated Houston, and the president is striking the same tone he does when he tweets about the record-setting strength of the stock market. Every few hours Sunday he took a break from playing hurricane hype man to promote his friend’s book, talk about his promised wall, and gloat about winning Missouri.
But Trump might’ve reached peak tone deafness Tuesday afternoon when he climbed atop a firetruck, looked out at a group of hurricane victims, and made note of his favorite thing of all: crowd size.
“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump said from atop this firetruck, addressing hurricane victims. pic.twitter.com/0EdsLctHDi
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 29, 2017
“What a crowd,” the president said to the group of hurricane victims. “What a turnout.”