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The Curious Longing for a Presidential Daddy


Glenn Thrush thinks that the horrible flooding in Texas might be the moment when Donald Trump Finally Becomes President:

Hurricane Harvey was the rarest of disasters to strike during the Trump presidency — a maelstrom not of Mr. Trump’s making, and one that offers him an opportunity to recapture some of the unifying power of his office he has squandered in recent weeks.

Now a tropical storm as it continues to inundate the Texas and Louisiana coasts, Harvey is foremost a human disaster, a stop-motion catastrophe that has already claimed at least 10 lives and destroyed thousands of structures. But hurricanes in the post-Katrina era are also political events, benchmarks by which a president’s abilities are measured.


Mr. Trump, one aide said, was fascinated by the long-term effect of water damage on structures in the Gulf Coast, peppering FEMA and National Security Council briefers with detailed questions about the flooding in Houston and Galveston. As the extent of the projected devastation became apparent over the weekend during a meeting at Camp David, he shook his head in disbelief and compared the situation to problems he experienced when managing his family’s apartment buildings in New York. “Water damage is the worst,” he told one staff member, “tough, tough, tough.”

Presumably, it’s the empathy he developed as a real estate developer that caused him to eliminate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard!


When in the name of god has this president* demonstrated the power to unify anything except division and anger? “Recapture” implies that he had it in the first place, or that he’s shown any indication that he ever wanted it. In the immortal words of the late Muddy Waters, you can’t spend what you ain’t got and you can’t lose what you never had.

The lifeboat phrase there, of course, is when Glenn Thrush places this “unifying power” in his office, rather than in the president* himself. Again, however, this particular occupant of the office has demonstrated right from his inaugural address that, even if he believed in the power of his office to unify, he wouldn’t know where to look for it. In that particular event, he’d be a guy who tried to turn on the lights of his office with the taps in the bathroom sink. But this most recent appeal for the vaunted presidential “pivot,” which is likely to prove as vain as all the other ones have been, demonstrates a phenomenon common to many political observers besides Glenn Thrush, and a phenomenon that did not begin with elevation of this particular president*.

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