The "journalists" at MSNBC seem eager for Hurricane Harvey to be a political disaster for Donald Trump, preemptively reminding everyone what the stakes are. Deadline: White House anchor Nicolle Wallace on Friday was amazed that the President hasn’t screwed it up yet: “It seems to me that this is the first event of this presidency where, sort of, the dire nature of the event seems to have halted other instincts in this president.”
Wallace marveled, “He seems to be focused on the storm after some early morning venting and he seems to be putting forward the kind of folks that would reassure any citizen in the path of such a dangerous and frightening storm.”
Earlier in the day, host Chris Jansing wondered, “The hurricane is going to be the President's first big test of this kind. Is he ready? Is his team ready?”
USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla reminded, “And so, if there is a major event here, let's hope that President Trump learned from some of the mistakes of President Bush during Hurricane Katrina.”
Jeremy Peters agreed, “It’s a huge test of his leadership, no doubt.”
Clearly, journalists are ready to pounce and make this yet another political hurricane.
Partial transcripts are below:
Deadline: White House
NICOLLE WALLACE: Phil Rucker, let me bring you in. Kelly O talking about the president's Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert. One thing that struck he me said from the podium today, quote “Now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions,” which of course is true, but that it even needed to be said was, of course, the incredibly, sort of strained tensions in our country. But Kelly also mentioned Brock Long. He’s the new FEMA administration. He was confirmed by a vote of 95-4 in the U.S. Senate. Not a divisive figure. He's the former director of Emergency Management for Alabama. It seems to me that this is the first event of this presidency where sort of the dire nature of the event seems to have halted other instincts in this president. He seems to be focused on the storm after some early morning venting and he seems to be putting forward the kind of folks that would reassure any citizen in the path of such a dangerous and frightening storm.
PHILIP RUCKER: I think that's exactly right, Nicolle. There's a third person I would mention who's General John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff. We say him in the photo tweeted out this morning in the Oval Office briefing the President at the Resolute desk with those photographs of the storm’s path with the graphics, if you will. And he's very involved in the White House response. They are trying to put forward a real sense of competence and strength and make people feel assured that they'll have this under control. I think it was telling that we didn't hear directly from the President today. He did not come out to the cameras and address the American people. And instead, they had Tom Bossert be the face of the administration. Bossert is somebody, obviously, as we saw today at the briefing with the extraordinary amount of knowledge and detail and can speak with real precision and accuracy about what the government doing and what citizens should be doing be doing who are in harm’s way.
Andrea Mitchell Reports
CHRIS JANSING: At the top of the hour, the President took to Twitter to let us know he’s closely monitoring Hurricane Harvey and he tweeted this photo of a briefing inside the Oval Office. He says he’s been in contact very closely with FEMA, that he’s fully engaged. Let’s get the inside scoop from Heidi Przybyla, Senior Political Reporter for USA Today, also an MSNBC Political Analyst. Jeremy Peters is a reporter for The New York Times and an MSNBC Contributor. Good to see both of you. So, Heidi, the hurricane is going to be the President’s first big test of this kind. Is he ready? Is his team ready?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA: Well, natural disasters, Chris, as you know, can be defining moments for presidencies, just ask George W. Bush. The risk for Trump is that we don’t know yet just how devastating this is going to be and he does have several vacancies at some of the main agencies that oversee these events, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including a temporary director at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, and the Coast Guard.
And so, if there is a major event here, let’s hope that President Trump learned from some of the mistakes of President Bush during Hurricane Katrina. Number one, get those supplies in, and get them in quickly. If you remember, some of the most damaging images for President Bush were all of those people huddled into the Superdome, didn’t have the supplies that they need, people waving from rooftops. And two, if there is a major catastrophe, go there and go there quickly. If you remember, Bush’s mistake was that he hung back at his ranch on vacation for a couple of days and then was – had those pictures of him flying over Katrina at a distance. No, go there and get on the ground.
And I guess we’ll see how this plays out. Hopefully it will not be on a scale of Katrina, which as you know, killed hundreds of people.
JANSING: Well, yeah, absolutely. And Chuck Grassley, obviously, has the same concern that you just voiced. And he tweeted today, “Donald Trump #hurricane keep on top of Hurricane Harvey. Don't make the same mistake President Bush made with Katrina.” I mean, one would hope, Jeremy Peters, that a president or anybody who’s in a position to deal with a natural disaster like this, would not have to be reminded that it’s probably not a good idea to let people die. To let what happened after hurricane Katrina, during Hurricane Katrina, happen again. But what is your sense of how the White House feels? Do they feel that this is a test? How much nervousness is there on Capitol Hill among Republicans?
JEREMY PETERS: It’s a huge test of his leadership, no doubt. And Heidi is absolutely correct in pointing out that presidents need to be physically present as quickly as possible in situations like this. One thing, you know, President Trump does have going for him, despite the fact that his leadership is under serious questioning by members of his own party, is that he does grasp the importance of the ceremonial aspects of the job. And I think that this would not be an area in which the President would fall down on the job.
Interestingly enough, the FEMA director he has appointed won high praise across the board. Was confirmed, I believe, with 95 votes. He used to run Alabama’s emergency management division. So he’s in a good position.
JANSING: So, Heidi, what is gonna constitute that they have done their job? I mean, you do have this FEMA director who, you know, was not somebody who was highly controversial. Presumably a lot of the people who have dealt with this before in FEMA, the actual folks on the ground have dealt with this before. It’s not like there’s been a wholesale purging of FEMA. What’s gonna be – is it easy to say as long as everything gets dealt with, as long as all the localities, as long as all the governors say FEMA did for us what we needed them to do, he passes?
PRZYBYLA: It is going to be the images of whether people are able to be rescued, whether there is – in a timely fashion. It is going to be the scale of human suffering. And, frankly, whether there – how many deaths there may be as a result of this. And let’s hope that it is minimal. Of course, people on the ground, the local authorities, share a lot of the responsibility. But at the end of the day, those images will be spliced with Trump’s promises and Trump’s tweets that he’s sending out right now.
JANSING: Heidi, Jeremy, our thoughts and prayers again, we’ve said it many times, but they are with the people in the path of this storm. Thanks to both of you.