As Hurricane Harvey hit Southeastern Texas last Friday, all eyes were on President Donald Trump to see how he would unite the country and lead the nation during a time of chaos and uncertainty. Of course, Trump couldn't stop the storm from happening, but he could have used this unfortunate opportunity to show the nation what kind of leader he could be. But, many were sorely disappointed. And as history shows, Trump's not the only one to drop the ball. In 2005, for instance, President George W. Bush faced criticism for his response to Hurricane Katrina. But, honestly, at this point, comparing Bush's response to Katrina to Trump's response to Harvey is like trying to compare apples and oranges — both scenarios (and presidents) are completely different in their own rights.
On Tuesday, Trump went to Texas to view the relief efforts underway and discuss relief efforts. But in typical Trump fashion, his response marveled at how powerful the storm was (because we all know how much Trump loves to use "huge" and "biggest of all time" in his speeches). According to CNN, Trump said at a subterranean command center in Texas:
Probably there's never been anything so expensive in our country's history. There's never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as — as what we've witnessed with Harvey.
What Trump Did & Didn't Say
Although Trump did thank government officials and emergency response leaders for their work, according to ABC News, there are a lot of things he didn't do. Trump reportedly didn't go near the disaster area during his visit, meet with any victims from the storm during his day-long trip to Texas, according to Politico, or acknowledge those who lost their lives in the storm, according to ABC News.
However, Trump did find the time to comment on how "innocent" sounding the name Harvey was. Could Americans really expect anything else from the man who told the people of Texas a sobering "Good luck to everybody," hours before the storm was about to hit on Friday afternoon?
Hurricane Harvey has left over 30 people dead, and it is predicted that it will take years and billions of dollars for Texas to recover, according to Politico.
Trump's comments and response to the situation don't necessarily carry the weight that it feels like they should.
Bush's (Delayed) Response To Katrina
In 2005, a similar story unfolded in the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas. At the time, according to U.S. News & World Report, Bush had been on a planned vacation at his ranch in Texas and "allowed himself to get isolated from the country" reportedly not paying attention to the news and only finding out what had happened after his aides showed him news clips of the devastation.
Bush flew back to the White House, three days after the hurricane hit landfall and looked at the devastation from Air Force One on his way back to the White House. People found the photo to be insensitive and Bush would later write in his memoir published in 2010 that he "realized he made a serious mistake" from the way he looked in the picture, according to Nola.com.
And in spite of his delayed response, according to U.S. News &World Report, Bush didn't want to visit Louisiana right away because he didn't want to interrupt with relief efforts. Sound familiar? Bush's response was also criticized due to the fact that he applauded FEMA director Michael Brown early on in recovery efforts (he shouldn't actually have been applauded — Brown resigned from FEMA due to how poorly he handled Katrina, according to Politico).
Bush is also to be blamed, according to Vanity Fair, for the slow moving federal response to delegating funding towards relief efforts. One week after the hurricane hit, Bush even admitted himself that the recovery was not going well, according to USA TODAY. The recovery was poorly timed and cracked under pressure. Needless to say people (including rapper Kanye West) weren't too happy with the president's response, describing it as "aloof" at best.
How Do They Stack Up?
It is still a little too early to tell just how Trump's response will compare to Bush's. While Trump's initial response to the hurricane came off as insensitive, there is still so much that he will have to do in the coming weeks and months — and perhaps years — in terms of relief and recovery to prove himself as a leader. But he will have the chance to show that.
According to CNN, Trump is reportedly set to visit Texas again on Saturday.
It's hard to disagree that Katrina left a lasting blemish on Bush's presidency — and Harvey has the potential to do the same to Trump. But like the presidents, its hard to compare the storms they dealt with. New Orleans sits below sea level, unlike Houston, and the city's levee system was unprepared to deal with the storm of that size, according to The New York Times. And while Katrina produced a huge and unexpected storm surge thanks to its winds, Harvey produced the largest amount of rainfall from one storm.
Like the storms they had to deal during their time in the White House, both Bush and Trump are unique as presidents. Because they're two very different people, their responses to the hurricanes are different in their own right. Only time will tell if Harvey has the same kind of effect on Trump's presidency as Katrina did for Bush. But so far, history appears to be repeating itself.