By Dan Calabrese
You can’t win with these people, and I’m not even sure why you would want to try.
People of good will can disagree about the role the federal government should play in all kinds of things, but I think most of us would agree the federal government has to play an major role in preparing for – and recovering from – major natural disasters. (You libertarians who want me to know you’re dissenting . . . you don’t count as people.)
We received a briefing this morning from the White House on all the things that have already been done to prepare for the worst if Florence turns out as bad as some have feared. Those fears seem to have abated in the past several hours as the storm has been downgraded, but there is obviously still a lot of potential for damage and risk to people’s lives. You want the federal government prepared, and by all accounts President Trump is working overtime to make sure it is.
He’s deploying resources. He’s reaching out to state and local officials. He’s getting everyone clear on their roles. This sounds like good leadership, does it not? The sort of thing you’d applaud. Even if you don’t like the guy himself, you can’t have a problem with him working hard to do a good job at something important to the country.
Ha! Of course you can, sillies. If you’re the media, you can easily find a reason to portray Trump’s hard work and earnestness in a negative light. Behold the latest meanderings from The Daily Beast:
But no president has taken image-obsession to the level of Trump. The famously cable news-addicted president closely followed how his administration’s response to the past storms was graded and he’s taken steps to make sure he scores high on the upcoming one.
As Florence bears down on the American Southeast, Trump has hit the phones, calling up senators and governors and mayors to assure them that the federal government will make all necessary resources available to deal with and recover from what is expected to be a devastating natural disaster.
The phone calls began early this week—a spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told The Daily Beast that he spoke with Trump on Monday—and they are vintage Trump storm prep activity, the former White House official said.
“He’s gonna start by talking to the political leaders because when they’re asked if they’ve talked to him he wants them to be able to say yes,” the source explained. “It’s one of the times that he is really dialed into federal government interaction with state and local leaders.”
During similar disasters in the past, the official added, Trump has called for regular updates in the Oval Office on what the federal government is doing in affected areas.
To a certain degree, coordinating between agencies and touching base with state and local officials is the role that all presidents play when hurricanes hit. “They’re kind of like the conductor,” said Alyssa Mastromonaco, President Barack Obama’s former deputy chief of staff. “The thing everyone forgets is presidents shouldn’t know every single thing to do but the people who work for him should.”
But for Trump, sources say, the briefings are rooted in large measure in fear over public perception. “He always wants to be able to say FEMA’s doing this and that.”
Now let’s say for the sake of argument that Trump cares nothing about the Carolinas or the people in them, and cares only about avoiding criticism, because he is narcissistic and thin-skinned and everything to him is about optics and his own personal image.
I personally think Trump cares very much about other people, and also cares very much about his image. I think he is both compassionate and thin-skinned to his own detriment. I think he has little patience with criticism that’s just petty and pointless, especially when it comes from people who do nothing all day long but aim petty and pointless criticism. I don’t blame him. Those people are beneath contempt. Ignoring them is the wiser thing to do but who among us doesn’t sometimes want to punch them in the mouth?
But OK, let’s say this is all for Trump’s image and nothing else. I don’t think that’s true but let’s say it is. If you want to have a good image and a good reputation, and avoid criticism, I can’t think of a more praiseworthy way of doing it than to actually do your job well.
The Daily Beast’s story is all about how hard Trump is working to try to get this right. There’s really nothing you can find to criticize about what he’s actually doing. And yet the piece is dripping with criticism about what is supposedly motivating him to do so well at this particular task.
If you want people to love you, then do good things and they will. If you can’t even do well and being prepared and helping people without getting criticized for it, then I think it’s fair to ask why a president should make any effort to work with the media at all. They’re going to find a way to criticism no matter what he does, because it’s the only reason they’re there.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!