Trump heads to Hurricane Florence-ravaged Carolinas

NORTH CAROLINA — President Donald Trump travels to flood-ravaged North and South Carolina on Wednesday to assess the federal response to Hurricane Florence, which drenched the state last week.

“We’re going to North Carolina. We’ll then be heading to South Carolina. We’re doing very well there,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House. “But the rivers are cresting. They’re just starting to crest. We’re really just going to say ‘hello’ to all of the folks from FEMA and the military, the people that are working so hard. And I think it will be an incredible day.”

Precise details of the President’s trip were being closely held ahead of his morning departure from the White House, but he is expected to receive briefings and view damage during his stay.

He is due to arrive mid-morning at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, situated along the bloated Neuse River.

At least 36 people have died as a result of Florence, which made landfall in the Carolinas on Friday. Ahead of the storm, Trump touted his administration’s preparation.

The President reiterated the strength of the federal response on Tuesday, though imbued his statement with a sense of political grievance.

“Right now, everybody is saying what a great job we are doing with Hurricane Florence — and they are 100% correct,” he tweeted. “But don’t be fooled, at some point in the near future the Democrats will start ranting that FEMA, our Military, and our First Responders, who are all unbelievable, are a disaster and not doing a good job. This will be a total lie, but that’s what they do, and everybody knows it!”

After storms last year, Trump made quick visits to the damage zones in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. He was accused at moments of appearing overly congratulatory, even as conditions remained dire.

On his first visit to Texas after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Houston, Trump met with no storm victims, choosing instead to receive high-level briefings from state officials. He later returned to the state to meet with displaced families.

When he visited San Juan after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump lobbed rolls of paper towels into a crowd at a church — an image that has since come to illustrate what his critics say was a lackluster approach to the island’s destruction.

Presidents have long sought to use natural disasters as a way to project executive leadership, often in a setting where politics are set aside. But pitfalls have abounded, including in 2005 when President George W. Bush faced intense criticism for his response to Hurricane Katrina.