Texas Hurricane Visit Promises To Be A Test Of Trump’s Empathy

And the rest of the day’s politics news in a swift one off the wrist

Trump Goes To Texas Today, As Rains Continue

Six trillion gallons of rain have fallen on the City of Houston, even more in surrounding areas. And it will continue for at least another day. The Governor has called out the entire Texas National Guard, 12,000 strong. An unprecedented number of volunteers have gone out in flooded neighborhoods to help (and because the nature of this storm is so different than Katrina, in many cases they’ve been able to make a difference.) Thousands of people have been rescued. Thousands of calls keep coming in. 30,000 people will need room in shelters or are there already. A few looters have been arrested, but not too many. Live updates continue to be available from The Guardian and CNN. The Houston Chronicle has a wide range of info.

The President is not likely to go near the worst of it, in Houston, but rather to Corpus Christi, at the South edge of the storm area. So far, Trump by-and-large has said and done the right things. Promising whatever assistance he can provide, and saying he’ll support congressional relief efforts. No firm plans yet, but The Hill suggests Congress might bundle hurricane relief with a short term spending bill that needs to pass by the end of September.

The President also has the successes and mistakes of his predecessors to learn from (including George W. Bush who was widely criticized for doing just a flyover after Hurricane Katrina), leading Trump to feel compelled to get his feet wet ASAP. In fact, Trump says he may return for a 2nd visit Saturday.

So the question for us becomes, will he stay focused on the hurricane, or will he get distracted and start yammering about his “wall”? (Which is probably the last thing a lot of people bailing out their houses want to hear about right now). It will be the President’s first trip to Texas since taking office. The temptation will be great…

Scientific American has a very interesting piece which answers many of the questions we’ve been wondering about including: “How can Harvey produce such extreme rainfall even though it is no longer over the ocean?”

Finally for those of you who might want to donate or participate from afar, we found this useful link, with all kind of charities listed, in many areas.

North Korea Makes Its Most Provocative Missile Launch Yet

North Korea early today launched a missile that traveled over the Japanese mainland, and landed in the Pacific Ocean to the East of Japan. Japan took the launch very seriously: it activated its national missile launch warning for the first time, and residents in the Northern Island of Hokkaido were told to go to their basements. Japanese public broadcaster NHK, which first reported the launch, reports Japanese Prime Minister Abe and President Trump had a 40-minute long phone conversation where Abe got Trump’s promise of “100% support”.

Trump this morning issued a statement saying “all options are on the table.” (But, so far, has avoided taking to Twitter).

North Korea hadn’t test-launched any missiles in nearly a month, until this past weekend when it sent some short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, eliciting muted international reaction.

Today’s launch will certainly wake everybody back up. Another unusual thing: the launch site. According to South Korean news reports, the missile originated from inside the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang.

By going short-range to medium-range in the course of a few days, North Korea seems to indicate a longer-range launch might be in the offing. Especially since it’s been threatening to fire a longer-range missile in the vicinity of the U.S. territory of Guam. As to timing? North Korea tends to like to fire missiles to commemorate important national holidays. The North will celebrate the anniversary of its founding on September 9th.

Trump Takes Heat For Trashing Flood Regulations

Much has been made of the fact that Trump not long ago rolled back Obama’s flood management standards for builders and developers. Trump rolled back a lot of regulations for building projects using federal funds, saying it often takes way too long to complete them. (That’s what his now-infamous Trump Tower meltdown over Charlottesville was really supposed to be about.) And that’s true in many cases. Whether the solution is to make them potentially less safe is a salient question, especially in light of Houston.

At the same time, to us, part of the issue is the overuse of Executive Orders by both Presidents Obama and Trump. But especially by Trump: since Obama had an obstructionist congress, and Trump just has a lack of patience. Obama signed the Executive Order in 2015, spurred by Hurricane Sandy. Now, Trump’s reversal may only last for a couple of years before it’s reversed too. But maybe it has to be this way until congress gets functional (that is, is ready to cut bipartisan deals again).

Trump’s Adding Regulations In One Area

And that’s legal immigration. New regulations will require virtually all applicants for a “green card” to appear for an in-person interview. On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable idea: of course someone applying for citizenship should be subject to an interview.

But it’s not reasonable. That’s because many green card applicants are already legal permanent residents of the U.S., and they’ve already been interviewed face-to-face in order get their work visas. In addition, the Trump administration is in the process of deeply cutting staff and budget at the State Department, which will increase wait times significantly.

So what this amounts to is a ploy by the Trump Administration to make the green card process move much much more slowly. We’ve said this a bunch of times: you don’t need legislation to slow legal immigration (which Trump also supports) if you can just bring green card processing to a crawl.

But what difference does it make if immigrants who are already working here legally have to wait longer for a green card? One big difference: green cards bring immigrants one step away from being able to vote.

Trump, Through Intermediary, Fires The Man Who Ran All His Rallies

Bloomberg reports Trump was angry about the turnout, layout, and crowd enthusiasm at his Arizona rally last week. (You know, the one in which he read highly-edited statements about what he’d said about Charlottesville?)

And so the President fired George Gigicos, who organized that event, and all of Trump’s campaign events and rallies, both as the White House director in charge of advance events; more recently as a private consultant. Or rather, Trump did not fire Gigicos himself, but sent trusted security man Keith Schiller to do it (the same man he had hand-deliver James Comey’s firing notice).

Publicly, Trump has continued to boast about the “massive crowd” at the event.

Will Secretary Of State Tillerson Soon Be Shown The Door?

We usually avoid this type of speculation, but Axios has been correct before. They even get very specific about a “Tillerson succession plan”: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (whom Trump loves) becomes Secretary of State, underutilized White House adviser Dina Powell becomes U.N. Ambassador. That all does seem to fit. (But we like Tillerson. Always have. We especially like him now for standing up to the President in defense of American values.)

Meantime, Tillerson Acts Like A Businessman, Starts Streamlining State

CNN reports Tillerson’s been coordinating with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, moving forward with one of his main priorities: restructuring and streamlining the State Department as a CEO would do (Tillerson used to run Exxon-Mobil). One of the first things he’s attacking are dozens of “Special Envoys” who are not generally posted to a specific country but rather cover a certain issue. Several will remain: for instance the Special Envoy in charge of Israel-Palestine negotiations, but Tillerson argues many of the other posts are archaic and unnecessary.

WaPo: Before Election, Top Trump Aide Appealed To Top Putin Aide For Help In A Moscow Real- Estate Deal

The Washington Post story could become something big, or could quickly fade. It says a top Trump company executive emailed Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesperson in an effort to revive a flagging real estate deal for Trump in Moscow. While Michael Cohen’s email is vague, and might not have even reached the intended recipient, the Post points out it’s “the most direct outreach documented by a top Trump aide to a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.”

Since the deal never happened, it does not exactly contradict Trump’s contention that he has no dealings in Russia, but it certainly muddies things.

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