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Trump has made big promises to Texas, but can he deliver?

President Donald Trump has made bold promises on Texas’ recovery from Hurricane Harvey, saying that the state will come back “bigger, better, stronger than ever before” and that Congress will deliver “rapid action” on an aid package to meet all of the state’s needs.

Following through is another matter.

Rescue efforts and recovery from Harvey — expected to come with a multibillion-dollar price tag — are likely to be far more complex and laborious than Trump’s rhetoric lets on. The floodwaters in and around Houston are only just starting to recede. And it’s still raining in southeast Texas, where rainfall totals are just as high as in Houston.

The Trump administration can look at the nation’s last two major weather disasters as examples of how long the process can take. New Jersey is still trying to recover five years after Superstorm Sandy roared ashore. And after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, it took the city nearly a decade to get back on its feet.

“The whole rebuilding process — it’s not going to happen overnight,” said former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), who represented a New Orleans district during part of the recovery. “It’s going to take place over the span of years. After Katrina, it took [New Orleans] around eight years in order to recover on a sufficient level.”

Trump has steadily built up expectations throughout the week, as the storm continued to dump water on the already flooded state.


“We will come out stronger and — believe me — we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before,” Trump declared at a news conference Monday. “The rebuilding will begin, and in the end it will be something very special.”

Addressing The Dallas Morning News, Trump promised: “I think that you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president. And you’re going to get your funding.” He added, “We think you’re going to have what you need, and it’s going to go fast.”

On Tuesday afternoon in Corpus Christi, Texas — which narrowly avoided a direct hit when the center of Harvey made landfall just up the coast from the city — Trump addressed a crowd of residents gathered across the street and promised that things would get back to normal soon. Very soon.

“I just want to say: We love you. You are special. We’re here to take care [of you]. It’s going well. And I want to thank you for coming out,” said Trump, using a microphone to address a crowd across the street. “We’re going to get you back and operating immediately.”

Trump has been more circumspect in his scripted comments.

“Recovery will be tough, but I have seen the resilience of the American spirit firsthand, all over this country,” Trump said at the start of a speech Wednesday in Springfield, Missouri, that was focused on his efforts to change the tax code. “To the people of Houston, and across Texas and Louisiana: We are here with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild.”

But even as he said that, the rain was still falling in Houston. At Houston’s Hobby Airport, more than nine inches of rain fell on Monday alone.

Tuesday night and Wednesday, meanwhile, brought equally unprecedented rainfall totals to parts of southeast Texas. Scores of water rescues were reported Wednesday in Beaumont and Port Arthur, where more than 47 inches of rain had fallen as of late Wednesday.

Trump’s visit to Texas on Tuesday didn’t include Houston or Beaumont-Port Arthur — for good reason — though the White House has said he intends to return to Texas this weekend.

The first, incomplete reading of Trump’s job performance came Wednesday night with two new public polls — both conducted mostly before Trump’s visit to Texas on Tuesday. A Fox News poll, conducted Sunday through Tuesday, showed a 44 percent plurality of voters approve of Trump’s response to Harvey, while 26 percent disapprove. But 30 percent say they don’t know.


The numbers were similar in a HuffPost/YouGov poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday: 42 percent approve of Trump’s performance, 24 percent disapprove and 34 percent are undecided.

Ultimately, the efficacy and speed of the federal response to Harvey — and Trump’s own response — will be judged by the people most affected. There, Katrina and Sandy suggest a long road ahead.

A 2015 poll conducted by Louisiana State University to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Katrina found that while 69 percent of Louisianans thought the state had mostly recovered, only 50 percent of New Orleanians agreed.

Meanwhile, a Monmouth University panel survey in New Jersey tracked residents who suffered significant home damage from Sandy or were displaced for an extended period of time. The last time they were interviewed, nearly a year ago, only 46 percent said they were satisfied with the state’s recovery effort after four years, compared with 54 percent who weren’t.

The percentage of New Jerseyans who were satisfied has ticked up year-over-year, however. After two years, just 33 percent were satisfied — but that increased to 40 percent in the third year and 46 percent in the most recent reading.

Only half of affected New Jerseyans said last year that the federal government had been helpful in Sandy recovery, though that was up from 43 percent in 2015.

That all suggests that — while Trump is currently being judged in the short term by how his administration responds to Harvey — with more than three years until the president faces the voters again, Texas will still be in recovery mode come time for his 2020 reelection campaign.

“I anticipate Houston and the surrounding areas, it’s going to take years to recover,” said Cao, the former New Orleans congressman. “It’s not going to happen in a few months, it’s not going to happen in a couple of years. I believe it’s going to take at least five years.”


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