The TV Politics of Floods

Rescue boats fill a flooded street as flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Rescue boats fill a flooded street as flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

If you ever find yourself able to turn off television news for a week, do it. When you turn it back on, you’ll see the sludge that you’d developed blind spots for before your reprieve. It’s remarkable. It’s like visiting your great aunt for the first time in a year and being overpowered by the cat box smell that she can’t even detect.

The coverage of the flooding in Texas smells like used cat litter. That’s basically the point I’m making.

Today, President Trump is going to visit storm-struck Texas. The flooding there is a catastrophe. As we all know from the shocking and tragic images, human suffering, loss of property and homes, even loss of life are taking place in the face of the relentless fury of Harvey’s seemingly endless rain. Men, women, children, even pets and animals are in danger, in pain, in hardship. Could there be anything more trivial than pondering to what political party the inundated belong? Or using the occasion of the President’s visit as a means of points-scoring?

It is nothing new, of course. Bush’s Katrina visits, Jindal’s too, were crassly exploited by little heads in makeup and fancy clothes, dry and smug on their comfortable TV “hits.” Obama likewise dissected by angry D.C.-ers popping up on the same channels. And now Trump’s visit.

I suppose it would be a psychic release to demand that things be different this time, but a useless one. The TV talkers will talk about what he’s gaining and why he’s doing it, or what he’s not gaining and why he could have if he’d gone here or there instead of there or here. And people will still be floating in rivers that were neighborhoods, pushing along the rough waters on buoyant furniture or sitting rain-soaked on rooftops waiting for good neighbors and Samaritans to help them to safety. Some will meet President Trump, others will hear from him as he visits, or see him in pictures and videos viewing the destruction. We generally believe this will help them feel that they are cared about, taken seriously, and will be helped.

And they will be helped. We do that here. We show up. We give money when we can’t give time. We have boats and raincoats and hands reaching out to pull you aboard and warm you. We do that. Politicians with careers to think about and partisan points to gain will show up too, and that, too, will help.

No, it’s not really fruitful to demand that attitudes and coverage be different. The politics of broadcast suffering will continue. But I do hope, or wish perhaps, that the little heads in boxes, the “analysts” and “strategists” and guests on air can take a few seconds before their big moment in the bright light and take a breath and remember the important thing about what is happening in this and every other natural disaster. Maybe it will be reflected in what they say or how they say it. Maybe not. But maybe.

After all, aren’t the darkest times when we most look to hope? So let’s hope for that.

We’re thinking of you. At RedState, we’re praying for you Texas, and Louisiana, and Mississippi. And America.