All the paper towels in North America could not sop up the mess U.S. President Donald Trump has made of handling natural disasters.
After Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, one would think Trump’s role as compassionate leader would be a significant cog in a well-oiled machine. It turns out it is more of a broken-down golf cart.
The world was watching as he visited the Carolinas in the wake of Hurricane Florence this past Wednesday. His less than somber attitude in the face of tragedy has been frankly dumbfounding in the past.
Trump made headlines last year when a video showed him throwing paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Ricans after hurricane Maria flattened much of the island. It was so inappropriate, he might as well have shouted, “Kobe!” He also recently tweeted a denial of one study’s results into the death toll of Hurricane Maria. The George Washington University study estimates the loss of life in Puerto Rico is about 3,000, but the official count prior to the study was just 64.
Trump further downplayed the study on Twitter.“ When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths.
As time went by it did not go up by much,” Trump wrote.
Between the paper towel incident and trivializing the deaths in Puerto Rico, one had to wonder what he was going to lob into a crowd of distressed human beings in North Carolina.
The president never shot any three-pointers with ham sandwiches at hungry survivors, but he definitely missed the net again when it came to being consolatory. While being briefed on the extent of the damages Trump asked a state official how Lake Norman was doing.
Trump was reportedly pleased to be informed it was fine, feasibly because a Trump-owned golf course is located there.
Trump’s empathy seemed to extend only towards his own investments. He failed to read the room throughout the tour of North Carolina and took to light-hearted jests when confronting people who had lost everything.
He even got to use his natural disaster catchphrase, “have a good time,” while handing out food to a storm victim in New Bern, N.C.
Trump first used this obtuse consolation last year while leaving an emergency shelter in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. He would say it again later that year in Puerto Rico, and finish things off by remarking that Hurricane Katrina was a much worse catastrophe than Maria.
There is a time and a place for playfulness and it certainly is not at the epicentre of the latest hurricane where 32 lives — and counting — have been lost. Trump’s chronically tone-deaf comments when confronted with human suffering may just be indicative of his lack of experience with it. He is a hard-nosed businessman born into extensive privilege and the only thing that seems to evoke any emotion out of him is a loss of profit.
It must be hard to develop good bedside manner when one has never had a papercut and is tasked with comforting the seriously — and mortally — wounded..