» Ken Herman: Trump comes to Texas, talks about him­self.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Ken Herman Com­men­tary

It goes with­out say­ing that the first thing you feel and say about a dis­as­ter as deep as Hur­ri­cane Har­vey is about the peo­ple who’ve suf­fered and are still suf­fer­ing.

Un­less you’re the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.

The up­side of low ex­pec­ta­tions is that they’re easy to meet.

Un­less you’re the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.

It’s al­ways best to think of oth­ers first.

Un­less you’re the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.

As the death toll rose, as vol­un­teers did Texas proud by res­cu­ing fel­low Tex­ans, as we took the very first small steps to­ward what will be a long, painful, tear-filled, ex­pen­sive road to re­cov­ery that will not be re­al­ized by all, Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump came to Texas on Tues­day and talked about his fa­vorite topic — Don­ald J. Trump.

A pres­i­dent’s words al­ways mat­ter, es­pe­cially when peo­ple are suf­fer­ing. This pres­i­dent has a trou­bling pen­chant for sum­mon­ing the wrong words and skip­ping the right ones.

At a Cor­pus Christi fire sta­tion, Trump — after a brief­ing and in­stead of open­ing with sym­pa­thy for the mil­lions of peo­ple im­pacted by Har­vey — started by thank­ing Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for show­ing up: “I know it was hard to get here for both of you.”

Some­how, some­where, some­one was fac­ing more chal­lenges than a cou­ple of sen­a­tors faced at that mo­ment.

Then Trump thanked and con­grat­u­lated his staff and Cab­i­net mem­bers, all of whom, he as­sured us, are “do­ing a fan­tas­tic job.”

My late mom had a say­ing: “SPS. Self-praise stinks.” Trump’s words cer­tainly had the odor of self-praise, es­pe­cially at a mo­ment when peo­ple were suf­fer­ing.

Trump then turned to what he seems to think is the ul­ti­mate mea­sure of suc­cess and ac­com­plish­ment at this cru­cial time in U.S. his­tory: get­ting your face on TV.

“And a man who has re­ally be­come fa­mous on tele­vi­sion over the last cou­ple of days — Mr. Long,” Trump said of FEMA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Brock Long.

And then our pres­i­dent talked about his very fa­vorite topic, one he al­ways thinks is ap­pro­pri­ate: him­self and what peo­ple think and will think of him.

“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” Trump said. How­ever, he said, “we won’t say con­grat­u­la­tions” quite yet.

Later, in Austin after a brief­ing from state lead­ers, Trump be­gan his re­marks by again con­grat­u­lat­ing his aides. He promised con­tin­u­ing help for Texas as we re­cover.

There was nary a word of em­pa­thy for the suf­fer­ing.

But the day’s most Trumpian mo­ment of all, the one we’ve come to ex­pect and re­coil from, came after the brief­ing out­side the Cor­pus Christi fire sta­tion when he told peo­ple who had gath­ered there, “We’re here to take care of you.”

Those words were ap­pro­pri­ate and wel­comed.

Then there was this: “Thank you, ev­ery­body. What a crowd. What a turnout.” The mo­ment, in Trump’s odd head, was all about him, and what kind of crowd he could draw.

“I will tell you,” he told the crowd, “this is his­toric. It’s epic, what hap­pened.”

Yes, it was and is. But good things also can be his­toric and epic. Other words might have come to your mind at that mo­ment, per­haps words like “tragic” and “dev­as­tat­ing.” Our pres­i­dent’s mind works dif­fer­ently than yours. Words like that didn’t come to his mind or mouth.

On Air Force One en route back to Wash­ing­ton, press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders was asked this: “Was there a rea­son the pres­i­dent didn’t talk that much about the peo­ple who were ac­tu­ally killed in the storm, the peo­ple who were dis­placed, who have been left home­less? It seemed like the fo­cus was on mak­ing sure the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was work­ing well with state and lo­cal of­fi­cials.”

San­ders: “I don’t think you could deny the pow­er­ful ef­fects (of ) some of the im­ages that we’ve seen over the past cou­ple of days. Cer­tainly, some­thing that I know is very mov­ing (to) both to the pres­i­dent and the first lady. One of the rea­sons she re­ally wanted to be part of the trip to­day. I think he’s made very clear the pri­or­ity is tak­ing care of the peo­ple and do­ing what­ever we can, but also let­ting the state and lo­cal of­fi­cials take the lead in the process. And we’re go­ing to con­tinue do­ing ev­ery­thing we can from our side to help in that.”

Did you hear an an­swer in that? I didn’t.

On the morn­ing after his trip, after crit­i­cism of his words flowed, Trump on Wed­nes­day took to Twit­ter to fi­nally say the right thing, al­beit later than you would have done so: “After wit­ness­ing first hand the hor­ror & dev­as­ta­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, my heart goes out even more so to the great peo­ple of Texas!”

Later Wed­nes­day, in a tax re­form speech in Springfield, Mo., Trump said: “To those af­fected by this storm, we are pray­ing for you and we are here with you ev­ery sin­gle step of the way. … To those Amer­i­cans who have lost loved ones, all of Amer­ica is griev­ing with you, and our hearts are joined with yours for­ever.”

Yes. And it would have been even bet­ter a day ear­lier when he was in Texas.

San­ders said her boss will re­turn to Texas in com­ing days and will have “the chance to meet with some of the evac­uees.”

If that doesn’t move him to words of sym­pa­thy I don’t know what will.

Be­ing White House press sec­re­tary is al­ways dif­fi­cult.

Es­pe­cially when you’re do­ing it for the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.

DOUG MILLS / NEW YORK TIMES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, along with first lady Me­la­nia Trump (cen­ter left), greets em­ploy­ees Tues­day at the Texas Divi­sion of Emer­gency Man­age­ment op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Austin. The Trumps came to Texas to be briefed on the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey’s dev­as­ta­tion of Hous­ton and the sur­round­ing area.

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