Tags: George W. Bush | Hurricane Harvey | Presidential History | fema | gulf

Disasters Remind Nation of What Really Matters

Disasters Remind Nation of What Really Matters
On Sept. 2, 2017, a man and his dog visit the beach in Port Aransas, Texas, for the first time since Hurricane Harvey's landfall. Rockport and Port Aransas bore the brunt of the record storm, one of the strongest to hit the United States. (Eric Gay/AP)

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Tuesday, 05 September 2017 01:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The scenes and stories of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey sweeping over the Lone Star State are heartbreaking. But the accounts of heroes from every walk of life rolling up their sleeves, taking action to help their neighbors in need are heartwarming.

Unlike some previous natural disasters, the efforts of both the state and federal government have been lauded and continue to demonstrate good management coordination and positive communications.

Coordination and clear lines of authority coupled with consistent communication have been the key thus far. Under current law state governors, not the federal government, are in charge of rescue and relief efforts.

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, and local officials took the lead, but made clear what they needed of Washington and that they were prepared to work closely with the Feds to provide the most effective and efficient relief. The Trump administration responded.

Before Harvey hit land, FEMA was at work. The preparations before high winds and more than 50 inches of rain pummeled the Gulf coast, made a significant difference.

The lessons learned from previous storm responses saved lives.

A dozen years ago Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana. Katrina nearly took 2,000 lives, and stranded more than 100,000, leaving millions without electricity for days.

The response was, at best, chaotic.

The early response, cooperation and coordination of the Harvey rescue and relief were not the rule then. The general impression of the Katrina efforts was that they were too little and too late.

Presidential leadership and involvement is vital when disasters of this magnitude strike.

The American people look to their president to provide calm, assured leadership, to be the voice of their compassion and to provide confidence that all that can be done is effectively undertaken.

Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, provided the gold standard. In the aftermath of the Challenger disaster his famous address to the nation remains as one of the greatest of presidential speeches.

Lifting the words of an aviator poet, he spoke of the brave astronauts who "slipped the surly bonds of earth to tough the face of God."

His fatherly or grandfatherly presence and incredibly well-crafted words soothed a shocked and shaken nation and gave emotional healing to his country's broken heart.

Trump's words may not have been the soaring rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, but they were thoughtful and appropriate. He fully expressed the compassion and concern felt by the nation.

He provided confidence that all that his government could muster would be delivered and that it would be done in a well coordinated fashion.

Most important, he delivered his remarks on the ground in Texas. Too many remember the image of George W. Bush peering out the window of his airplane as the soaring waters of Katrina destroyed lives and property below.

It unfortunately gave the impression of a president detached from what was going on. George W. Bush himself later said that the picture was a "huge mistake."

Trump was on the scene and he was there quickly. His mere presence was an important message.

Beyond that he chose appropriate words and demonstrated message discipline, not only in his own utterances, but in communicating in a consistent and coordinated fashion information and encouragement.

Trump even used his Twitter account wisely and well. He employed it to both inform and inspire.

He tweeted useful and timely information, assured that the White House was fully engaged and working closely with state and local officials and praised and encouraged the local heroes who were lending their hands and hearts to their friends and neighbors.

As with all of history, we remember moments. Moments like these are indelibly etched in our minds and souls. How the president responds and leads tells us a lot.

In days of national turmoil and deep divides, Trump helped to bring us together. His performance has been lauded by political friend and foe alike.

Abbot said he gave "FEMA a grade of A-plus, all the way from the president down."

Of course there were naysayers.

Sadly that's to be expected. But when their most consistent complaint was about the First Lady's choice of footwear, you knew they'd run out of anything real to gripe about.

Even some hard core critics were forced to admit that there is a time and a place for dissent. When our brothers and sisters are still clinging on for survival it's not that time.

Now may be a good time for the Trump administration to push the infrastructure piece of its agenda.

Roads, bridges, highways and levees will need to be repaired along the Gulf Coast. There are additional infrastructure demands in other parts of the country. Taking care of those public safety and economic development requirements has bi-partisan support and is a unifying theme.

There's a long road ahead. The people of Texas are gritty, tough, and determined. But the TV crews will leave, the nation's attention will shift and they'll be left to deal with Harvey's destruction for months and years.

The incredible and heroic acts of compassion and caring have inspired all of us. The record-breaking hurricane brought out the best in people. Somehow disasters always do.

There's a moment now for us to focus on what unites us rather than divides us. It's a chance to think about what really matters.

Charlie Gerow is a political analyst for Harrisburg, Pa.'s CBS affiliate, appearing weekly on its Sunday morning show, "Face the State," which is syndicated statewide. He serves as the first vice chair on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. He is the CEO of Quantum Communications, a strategic communications and issue advocacy firm. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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CharlieGerow
Incredible, heroic acts of compassion and caring inspire all of us. The record-breaking hurricane brought out the best in people. Somehow disasters always do. There's a moment now for us to focus on what unites, rather than what divides us. It's a chance to think about what really matters..
fema, gulf
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2017-39-05
Tuesday, 05 September 2017 01:39 PM
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