In the week following the devastating winter storm that left millions of Texans without power, President Biden is showing his ability to lead during a crisis. Last week, Biden declared a state of emergency in Texas and had FEMA send generators and other supplies (unfortunately, incompetent state leadership resulted in 60 generators sitting idle as FEMA awaited delivery instructions). Texans in over 100 counties can apply for federal assistance for damage and economic losses incurred during the disaster.
Biden is also set to visit Houston on Friday, along with First Lady Jill Biden. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Biden will “meet with local leaders to discuss the winter storm, relief efforts, progress toward recovery and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas.” The president will also visit a COVID health center distributing vaccines while he is in Texas. Biden had discussed visiting Texas earlier, but did not want to impose a burden on the state until the disaster was sufficiently under control. “When the president lands in a city in America it has a long tail,” Biden told reporters last Friday.
Biden’s response to the winter storm is in stark contrast to Trump’s record of disaster response. When wildfires raged on the West Coast last summer, Trump’s first instinct was to chastise California’s government. “They have massive fires again in California,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally in August. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.” Trump repeatedly claimed that California’s fires were their own fault because they didn’t properly manage their forests, even though most forest land in California is owned by the federal government.
Trump didn’t visit California for weeks, finally showing up in September to deny climate change. Trump also refused to approve a disaster relief package until October, finally relenting after pressure from California Governor Gavin Newsom and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Many said Trump’s hesitancy to help California stemmed from politics. “He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him and that politically it wasn’t a base for him,” said Miles Taylor, a former Trump administration official who later became an outspoken Trump critic.
However, Trump’s record of helping states that did vote for him isn’t great either. In March of 2020, the Trump administration refused to approve disaster relief funds for October tornadoes that struck Dallas County. In spite of urging from both Republicans and Democrats, Trump’s FEMA administrator said that the “damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott. The Trump administration’s disaster response may be characterized more by sheer incompetence than petty politics.
In any case, Biden’s actions to assist a state that did not vote for him demonstrates a stark contrast with Trump, who routinely failed both red states and blue states. Biden is already fulfilling his promise that he would govern for all Americans, regardless of how they voted. Perhaps it should be no surprise that someone with decades of public policy experience is better at managing a crisis than a former reality TV star and failed businessman.
Photo: The White House / Wikimedia Commons