Trump confronts tricky politics of natural disasters

Julie Pace
Associated Press

Washington — George W. Bush never recovered from his flyover of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Barack Obama got a bipartisan boost late in his re-election campaign for his handling of Superstorm Sandy.

Now, President Donald Trump confronts the political risks and potential gains that come with leading the federal government’s response to a deadly and destructive natural disaster. Hurricane Harvey, the massive storm that has dumped torrents of rain across Texas — flooding Houston and other cities — is the first major natural disaster of Trump’s presidency, and the yet-to-be-determined scope of the damage appears likely to require a years-long federal response.

Trump advisers are well-aware that the hurricane poses a significant test for the White House, which has largely been mired in crises of its own making during Trump’s first seven months in office.

In a surprising move, the White House announced Trump would visit Texas before it became clear where the storm would hit or how bad the impact would be. Administrations often tread carefully in planning such trips, given that presidential visits are an enormous logistical undertaking and can pull local law enforcement resources away from the recovery efforts.

Trump said he would travel on Tuesday and may also return to the area on Saturday. The exact location of his stops is unknown, though he’s all but certain to avoid Houston, where flooding has wreaked havoc.