Hi, friends. Here’s a good list of ways you can help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
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– Aubrey Whelan
Today, let’s talk about Harvey.
What’s at stake
President Trump is in Texas this morning, surveying hurricane-recovery efforts as Houston-area residents brace for another several days of rain from Hurricane Harvey. At least 10 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced, with that number expected to rise. In the meantime, Trump has been busy — in the middle of wrangling disaster declarations, he also made a controversial pardon, signed a directive on his transgender military ban and sent … a whole lot of tweets.
I’m going to dispense with arguments about whether or not to talk politics re: a natural disaster. Like it or not, these things are political, whether it’s in debates about climate change, or in the way low-lying, flood-prone areas are also home to cities’ most impoverished residents, or in the way our leaders talk about a disaster. So it may be instructive to take a look at how Donald Trump talked about the last natural disaster that hit closest to our home — Hurricane Sandy, in 2012.
A day after Sandy crashed into the Jersey Shore:
He touted the fact that Trump Tower remained open during the storm:
and reminded his followers that he had offered Obama $5 million toward his favorite charity if he’d release his birth certificate.
Disaster response, as George W. Bush well knows, can define a presidency. POLITICO notes this morning that Trump is talking about Harvey in the same kinds of branding terms that have defined his presidency so far: “Even while he has pledged quick financial assistance from the federal government, he has appeared unable to stop himself from marveling at the strength and size of the storm.” And he’s courted controversy by tying his pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the storm: “In the middle of a hurricane… I assumed the ratings would be far higher,” he said Monday.
The recovery efforts Trump will lead are about far more than rhetoric, of course — and after Monday-morning quarterbacking other politicians’ disaster responses for years, Trump finally has the chance to stand in water and rain today like a real president. Here’s a good rundown from Vox on what he needs to do next.
What they’re saying
“It’s the biggest ever. They’re saying it’s the biggest ever. It’s historic. It’s like Texas. It’s really like Texas, if you think about it. But it is a historic amount of water.” — President Trump on Monday during a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
“We have a lot of blond women in Finland.” — A Finnish reporter whom President Trump mistook for her colleague at the presser Monday.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.” — Trump associate Felix Sater, in an email to Trump’s lawyer, arguing that building a Trump Tower in Moscow could help the Trump campaign.
In other news
- The Washington Post and the New York Times are neck-and-neck reporting on a story about President Trump’s business interests in Russia during the campaign — and how the aforementioned Felix Sater believed that building in Russia could win Trump the presidency.
- North Korea launched a missile over Japan, and President Trump said that “all options are on the table” for the U.S.’s response.
- Hillary Clinton is coming to Philly this fall to promote her memoir, What Happened.
- President Trump is lifting Obama-era restrictions on a much-criticized program allowing local police forces to get military-grade equipment from the feds. NBC10 looked at what that might mean for Philly’s police force.
What I’m reading
- A long piece on Sheriff Joe Arpaio from the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who exposed how the Arizona lawman focused on immigration enforcement at the expense of almost all other crime.
- A Vanity Fair exposé reveals perhaps the only #relatable thing about Jared and Ivanka: They hate D.C.!
- New York Magazine goes deep on life at HUD under Ben Carson.
- PhillyMag’s Holly Otterbein profiles state Rep. Martina White, the rising Republican star from the Northeast who invites the inevitable Trumpian comparisons (but still won’t say whether she voted for him).
A non-political palate cleanser
Queen Village’s Brickbat Books is one of my favorite places in the city and this story about how its biggest fans saved it from the brink of closing is a true delight.