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On Thursday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to comfort victims and get an update on recovery efforts—and walked away looking like a guy who did everything right, where his boss Donald Trump did everything wrong.
Trump’s trip to Texas was full of head-scratching bombast and, well, hats. Meanwhile, Pence did everything you would expect from a politician, particularly one who is totally not plotting out a run at the White House in 2020, nope, no way.
Pence was in Rockport, Texas, where Harvey made landfall earlier this week, devastating the community. Speaking to victims and clean-up crew at a church in Rockport, Pence spoke in a manner befitting a visiting, comforting politician, keeping the first-person references to a minimum. Which stands in contrast to the actual President of the United States. If you can believe it.
“We will be here today, we will be here tomorrow and we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuilds bigger and better than before,” Pence promised, according to the White House Pool Report.
Said Pence at one point, “We promise you, we’re going to stay with you every step until we bring Southeast Texas back bigger and better than ever before.”Besides the rousing speech, Pence also shook hands, and gave hugs.
Then, he rolled up his sleeves, put on some gloves, and got a little dirty handling debris and branches outside a residence.
Yep, of course it’s all a photo-op. But how much work Pence does isn’t the point. It’s about our leaders showing themselves at the sights of disasters to reassure us that they’re here for us—it’s symbolic, in form, but especially in function.
It’s LBJ visiting victims of Hurricane Betsy. It’s Barack Obama visiting New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. It’s George W. Bush at Ground Zero after 9/11 (and not George W. Bush after Katrina).
Whatever you think of Pence, he at least played the part that Trump just refuses to play for some reason—a refusal pushed forward by an image recently shared on Trump’s Instagram page.
The best photo he could find of him seeing the damage “first hand” was of him inside a board room staring at a television.
That’s not to say he hasn’t or won’t see it first-hand. On Tuesday, Trump visited Corpus Christi (which also sustained damage during the storm) and will be returning this weekend (as Houston was still too inundated by water for a visit this week).
But, as pointed out before, his obsession with crowd size and hawking hats undermined any comfort he brought to the victims.
Pence, meanwhile, made a show of compassion and strength, providing images that’ll carry a lot of weight (as Trump’s polling numbers continue to tank). The vice president, in his actions and words, delivered message of comfort, support, and hope to the victims of Harvey.
Sweat dripped off Pence’s face as he helped Texas’s Greg Abbott haul tree debris, both in blue work gloves. No coastal breeze, roasting hot. pic.twitter.com/OjhpoGza8b
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 31, 2017
And Trump made it so easy for Pence. Pence gave the basic, perfunctory minimum effort for “comforting politician.” But in comparison to Trump, he’s practically a miracle-worker. Who’d ever expect Trump to stoop to physical labor?
Pence is Gallant to Trump’s Goofus. And he can rail against reports of his shadow candidacy all he wants, but when it’s this easy to look so good for the 2020 race against a vulnerable incumbent—whether or not he’s your boss—how could you say no?