Our friend Tevi Troy is an expert on presidents responding to disasters. He wrote a book — “Shall We Wake the President? Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office — about it.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Tevi gives President Trump high marks for his administration’s response to Hurricane Harvey. “Washington’s disaster authorities appear to be in sync with the state on roles and responsibilities; the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its leader, Brock Long, deployed resources as Harvey approached; and the government response as a whole appears well coordinated,” he says.
Tevi cites Rear Adm. W. Craig Vanderwagen, a former career emergency manager who is plugged into the Harvey response effort. In an email to Tevi, he wrote: “Early read is that Executive Branch is performing well under this President.”
Why has the response been successful so far? Tevi suggests two reasons.
The first is personnel. The president “has surrounded himself with leaders experienced in this area,” most notably Gen. John Kelly who served as Secretary of Homeland Security before becoming Trump’s chief of staff.
Trump has been slow to fill important positions in various government departments and agencies. However, this has not been the case at DHS. Moreover, Long, Trump’s selection to head FEMA, is an experienced hand in emergency management.
Preparation has been the other key to success. According to Tevi:
Mr. Long began preparing for the next disaster the day he was sworn in, when he presided over a cabinet-wide tabletop exercise on emergency management. Frank Cilluffo, a homeland security aide in the Bush administration, says this showed the White House was taking disaster readiness seriously. “Training is everything here,” he told me. “You want to make mistakes on the practice field, not in the actual event.”
Then in early August, weeks before Harvey showed up on the radar, Mr. Long hosted the president and other cabinet officials at FEMA for a briefing on the coming hurricane season.
As noted, when Harvey approached, Long began deploying resources, and did so wisely.
Tevi also applauds the Trump’s communications efforts. He finds that the president’s tweets about the storm “have been informative and responsible, with a tone appropriate to the human tragedy,” but he advises Trump to stop tweeting about non-essential matters — e.g., the Arpaio pardon — until the storm passes.
Tevi commends Trump for leaving the non-Twitter communications to the government officials directly involved in the response. By doing so, he promotes message discipline and ensures that the message is coming from people with standing to appeal to Americans across the partisan divide.
You can tell Trump is handling the Hurricane Harvey emergency well. The best the anti-Trump media has been able to come up with by way of criticism is to attack his wife for wearing high heels when she boarded the airplane for Texas.