Wonder of wonders, a poll surfaced this week essentially indicating that, for the first time since his inauguration, Donald Trump's favorability ratings, which have consistently hovered at record lows for any given point in his presidency, have taken a modest bump upward.
It does not take an Einstein to figure out the reason why. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, while catastrophe for Texas, Florida, and areas adjacent to both states, were, for Trump, the ill winds that, a la the proverb, could still blow somebody some good — the somebody being the government-bashing, divider-in-chief himself, forced by circumstance to represent all the people. Or at least to pretend to, in show-and-tell photo ops in Texas, with more to come in Florida, presumably, when the weather clears.
Never mind that Trump, for all we know, still disbelieves in climate change as being anything more than a hoax dreamed up by the Chinese — who, ironically, have seemingly addressed themselves faithfully to the strictures of the Paris climate agreement of 2015, meanwhile becoming world leaders in an important environmental industry, the production of solar panels.
Trump, meanwhile, has, by his action to peremptorily withdraw from that international accord, attracted the the world's scorn for himself and its patronizing pity for the nation that he was elected to represent. To borrow from the lingo of the president's own tweeting style: Sad!
Sadder yet is the fact that, in advance of these eminently predictable weather disturbances, geometrically increasing in both frequency and intensity, Trump released a budget calling for Draconian cuts in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has a vital role in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of devastated urban areas; and both the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose job it is to foresee weather emergencies and prepare for them.
The president also brandished his ax at the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for $3 billion worth of cuts and for the laying off of some 3,500 EPA employees. Only rear-guard preventive action by Congress has so far kept most of this folly from taking place.
Still, the president has indeed turned up in the general periphery of a few affected sites, marveling, campaign-style, at the turnouts, even when the crowds he is addressing are assemblages of dispossessed people gathered at relocation points, and (upon being pressed to do so) actually interacting with victims, to the point of picking up a child or two. Trump has even made bold to praise the emergency efforts of the very federal agencies that his budget proposals would eviscerate.
There is hypocrisy in this, and opportunism, obviously, but we do not begrudge the president for taking advantage of events in order to buttress his popularity. Nor do we discount the possibility of genuine sincerity in his attempts at compassion. This is a man who, to give him his due, feeds on the emotional responses of crowds, and if first-hand exposure to the needs of a stricken population helps enlighten him on the duties and profound responsibilities incumbent on him and the government he heads, so much the better.