Eager to demonstrate leadership amid the worst natural disaster of his tenure, President Donald Trump flies to flood-ravaged Texas on Tuesday, even as the state grips for more catastrophic rain.
Trump hopes his stops will send the message that he’s fully engaged in the disaster recovery efforts, which have consumed Texas officials and are expected to persist for months. He’s due to receive briefings from local authorities and potentially meet with displaced residents.
But an early trip to the state comes with some risk. His predecessors largely avoided landing in places where law enforcement resources — required for any presidential visit — are still being used for search-and-rescue missions.
The White House insists it has taken steps to mitigate any drain on local assets as Trump makes stops in Corpus Christi, along the Gulf Coast, and in Austin, the Texas capital.
“We are staying clear of the areas where there is still search and rescue efforts ongoing so as not to interfere,” a White House official said.
Those stops will keep Trump at a distance from the most devastating damage in and around Houston, which has experienced historic flooding after Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on Friday.
Trump suggested Monday that he may return to the state this week to view the damage at a closer range. He also said he may visit Louisiana, which is expected to be hit with torrential rain and flooding.
On Tuesday, he’ll be joined by first lady Melania Trump and members of his Cabinet. The White House has been keen to show Trump engaged in the crisis as it unfolded over the weekend, distributing photos of Trump being briefed on the storm from Camp David.
Presidents have long visited areas devastated by natural crises as shows of solidarity and support. But Trump’s predecessors have found it can be difficult to strike the right tone.
When George W. Bush flew over devastated areas of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the photos of him peering from the window of Air Force One were derided as evidence of an aloof commander in chief.
President Barack Obama offered an emotional speech in Joplin, Missouri, after tornadoes tore through the town in 2011, but he was criticized for not cutting short a European trip to fly there sooner.