Houston Chronicle on Trump’s Hurricane of Ignorance

June 12, 2018

Above, Science all-star team breaks down Hurricane Harvey’s relationship to a record-warm ocean.

Below, Houston Chronicle editors break down Commander in Chief’s ignorance and arrogance in the face of natural disaster.

Vocab advisory:
I had to look up exegete.  — one who can explain an obscure text, like a religious tract.

Houston Chronicle:

So now we know: Thousands of heedless Houstonians were out pleasure-boating during that fateful Hurricane Harvey weekend and had to be rescued by U.S. Coast Guard sailors.

How do we know?

President Donald J. Trump said so last week. During a conference call with state and federal leaders preparing for another hurricane season, he thanked the Coast Guard for helping save 16,000 people after hurricanes Harvey and Maria and other storms. The Coast Guard doesn’t “get enough credit,” he said.

Then he said this: “Sixteen thousand people, many of them in Texas, for whatever reason that is. People went out in their boats to watch the hurricane. That didn’t work out too well.”

Anyone who can make sense of such absurdity is a better Trump exegete than we.


Venturing a guess, the president seems to believe that the Coast Guard only rescues people at sea and that those bobbing boats he might have seen on cable news last August were foolish Houstonians seeking a little late-summer recreation in the face of impending mortal danger. Like Civil War-era Washingtonians picnicking near the First Battle of Bull Run, we were irresponsible gawkers, perhaps even deserving of the consequences of our own making.


Texas House Speaker Joe Straus was quick to respond. “The people who took their boats into the water during Harvey were not storm-watchers,” the San Antonio Republican said. “They were heroes who went toward danger to rescue friends, neighbors, strangers. Texans helping Texans in a time of desperate need.”

A sarcastic Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez also responded: “I’ll be sure to invite the president to ride out the next hurricane in a jon boat in Galveston Bay the next time one approaches.”

Gonzalez — along with his deputies, and countless other first responders and volunteers from Southeast Texas and around the country — spent days rescuing people from rooftops, attics and submerged vehicles. They were heedless to danger, all right — heroically heedless in service to men, women and children they didn’t even know.

Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to bizarre Trumpian bloviations. (No, Mr. President, Canada did not burn down the White House.) The ad hoc remarks are often best ignored. U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz did just that, discretion being the better part of Republican valor in these peculiar times. And yet the president’s Hurricane Harvey inanity is too serious for Houstonians to let slide.

A region still recovering from catastrophic flooding doesn’t need its plight minimized or ridiculed. It needs help.

Help from the federal government, from the White House, from the Texas congressional delegation. If the man in charge is abysmally ignorant about what happened in the wake of a Category 4 storm and the epic deluge that followed, who’s to say that government agencies — Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Flood Insurance Program, among others — will understand the urgency of Houston’s needs? Who’s to say that Ben Carson and other Trump appointees will be any better informed?

Who’s to say we have a prayer of getting a third reservoir, new bayou infrastructure or a coastal storm surge barrier before the next big storm?

We need political leadership — from Washington to be sure, but also from Austin. Gov. Greg Abbott, whose mealy-mouthed response to the president’s remark was nearly as inane as the remark itself — “no information on that one way or the other” — ought to have called a special session of the Texas Legislature months ago to address relief, recovery and preparedness. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick needs to tend to local needs.

Those needs are urgent. We’re two weeks into another hurricane season, facing fresh risk of another disaster, and we’re still begging for assistance to recover from the last one. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett are doing what they can, but as local officials, their resources are limited.

The people of Puerto Rico, those who survived a hurricane that killed thousands, know something of the importance of political leadership. They remember a president who responded to biblical devastation by tossing rolls of paper towels at them. They know how arrogance and ineptitude at the top can magnify a dire situation.

Mr. President, those Texans in rescue boats weren’t out looking for trouble. They were looking for help. A year later, the Houston region is still looking.

Show some leadership. Make us your priority, not your punchline.


5 Responses to “Houston Chronicle on Trump’s Hurricane of Ignorance”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Well said, Houston Chronicle. And if Texans and other deluded red-staters keep voting for the likes of Trump and Cruz, you’ll get to write more chapters in the tale of ignorance.

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    ” If the man in charge is abysmally ignorant about what happened in the wake of a Category 4 storm and the epic deluge that followed, ”

    What will it take for people to finally get it and start thinking and talking about it the way it is? He’s not, and they’re not, ignorant–except intentionally so. Motivated reasoning’s dumber, sneakier twin is motivated ignorance, which is what’s driving the planet to oblivion. It’s not primarily economic, that’s a symptom we need to look behind. And politics is just the large-scale working out of society’s psychological stuff. We need to find a psychotherapeutic/legal/political way of dispelling this motivated ignorance, because it’s so tightly wrapped up with power and wealth that unless we radically change our direction, tactics, strategy, and commitment, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to unravel them in time.

    • “What will it take…?” More than I I’ve thought of I’m sure, but I’m certain that motivated ignorance & motivated reasoning could be dealt a serious setback if there were a serious, coordinated, national PR & organizing campaign to make it so. There is no such project. Thousands of organizations, advocates, activists are acting independently to get out the facts, solutions, often one targeted audience at a time. It’s the model that emerged, unplanned. And resulted in the largest social movement in US history. But we are a sleeping giant with barely any political/ policy influence.

      In any design for bringing the public up to speed, to its senses and to the polls, climate scientists addressing the nation on the climate crisis on prime time would be an obvious good thing to arrange. Imagine coordinating that declaration of urgency with nationwide local events, campus teach-ins, social media campaigning, mainstream media sympathizers, business & finance leaders… We need to be talking about unity – and the network, alliances & public relations strategies that would give that unity a shot at real influence in Washington. It’s a problem with solutions.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Yes, well said and thanks for that. It’s a major solution. Getting there is tough, and I think there are other solutions, but it’s a good start.

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