People evacuate their flooded homes on Monday, 28 August 2017, in Houston, after Hurricane Harvey flooded the city. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Amy Davidson Sorkin
29 August 2017

(The New Yorker) – “You are special!” President Donald Trump said, to the thousand or so people who had gathered on Tuesday morning outside a firehouse in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was meeting with officials, including Governor Greg Abbott, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and several members of the Texas congressional delegation. The rain brought in by Hurricane—now Tropical Storm—Harvey, was still falling in Houston; as Trump spoke, the level crept up toward fifty inches, and past the record for the continental United States, set forty years ago; before nightfall, it would pass fifty-one inches. The Washington Post quoted experts who estimated that the amount of water dumped on the city and the surrounding area was “nearly nineteen times the daily discharge of the Mississippi.” Hundreds of thousands of people may lose their homes; only about a fifth of the households in Houston have flood insurance. By Tuesday evening, thirty per cent of Harris County was underwater. But President Trump had a different metric in mind: “What a crowd, what a turnout!” he said, standing on a truck outside the firehouse. Then someone handed him a Texas state flag, and he waved it.

The problem is not that President Trump does not realize that Harvey is huge; a number of his tweets on the storm have contained the word “Wow,” and he called it “epic” and “historic,” adding that “Texas can handle anything!” But the enormity of the situation does not seem to have organized his thoughts beyond declarations of how it will be matched by the greatness of his Administration and its allies. On the flight to Texas, on Tuesday morning, he had retweeted a message from Brazoria County, which consisted of a red box containing the words “notice: The Levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!! get out now!!” Get out to where? What are the practical consequences of a breach? Trump didn’t say. (Vox has a more technical breakdown of the levee situation.) […]

What will be harder is persuading not only Trump but the Republican Party that Harvey has a reality that reaches beyond the borders of this storm, and involves major policy issues. Both Senators Cruz and Cornyn voted against a major emergency-relief bill allocating funds for rebuilding and recovery after Superstorm Sandy. Cruz, in particular, has misrepresented that bill’s contents and its purpose, saying that two-thirds of the money in it wasn’t really related to Sandy but was, rather, pork and other wasteful government spending. (Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, gave Cruz three Pinocchios for that.) Cruz and others, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, also complained that the bill wasn’t really for emergency spending because it covered things like improving forecasts and repairing damaged infrastructure in a way that protected it against the next storm. This time, for the congressional Republicans, as much as for Trump, the emergency can’t stop when the rain does. […]

Is there a chance that sitting in a control center in Austin is going to persuade Trump that climate change is not a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese? Or that it will make him rethink pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement? Here the problem is not just Trump, or his tweets, or his seriousness. The leaders of the Republican Party—along with too many other Americans—continue to deny what has become obvious: that, although it is hard to connect climate change to any one storm, climate change has increased, and will continue to increase, the number of extreme weather events. [more]

What Has Hurricane Harvey Taught Donald Trump in Texas?

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