Doing what Trump does: An 18-wheeler full of supplies and Play-Doh

Doing what Trump does: An 18-wheeler full of supplies and Play-Doh

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Donald Trump came to Louisiana with an 18-wheeler full of school supplies, blankets, juice and Play-Doh. Someone remembered that kids lost everything, too, and that toys are also relief supplies.

Donald Trump in Louisiana - screen shot

NATCHITOCHES, La., Aug. 20, 2016 — The visit of Donald Trump and Gov. Mike Pence to Louisiana was big news this weekend. The 18-wheeler filled with supplies—from food and water, to blankets and school supplies, to diapers, toys and cleaning supplies—that Trump donated was not.

This is the flood disaster’s worst kept secret. Brooke Baldwin on CNN broke the news:

The donation was received by Church International. CNN correspondent Rosa Flores asked the pastor about the importance of the donation.

“This is huge because a lot of these families lost everything, they had to get out,” said the unnamed pastor. “And they left a lot of their belongings and clothes to get out before the waters, so this donation is a significant investment in the community.”

While little coverage of Trump’s donation made the airwaves, the “Today Show” did take a few moments to report on his actions in Louisiana between the ongoing negative reports of his campaign.

Some reports about the donation focused on the toys: the Play-Doh, to be exact. That was derided by people who said that Trump delivered Play-Doh rather than relief supplies, as if children, who are among those emotionally devastated by the flood, would find their spirits more lifted by socks and underwear than by toys. That including toys among the relief supplies might be appreciated by both parents and children was completely discounted.

If Trump chose or approved of that particular item, it says a lot about his understanding of people, and of children. That particular touch was both human and humane. reported:

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“Donald Trump went to Louisiana today to give assistance to flood victims for a photo-op with running mate Mike Pence by his side. Donald said that he has lengthy history with Louisiana and the visit was his way of helping out. So, that must explain why he was handing out Play-Doh to flood victims. OBVIOUSLY, if you are flooded out of your home, the last thing you need is food, water and shelter. Instead, you just sit there hoping that someone—anyone—will come along with a box of Play-Doh. And that’s when Super-Hero Donald Trump swooped in to assist the flood victims in Louisiana.”

DemocraticUnderground apparently missed the boxes of juice, food, diapers, cases of water, blankets,  and medical and cleaning supplies that were also donated.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards asked President Obama not to visit the state, as that would create logistical problems and divert resources needed for rescue and relief operations. That request was not reported until Obama had managed to avoid visiting the state without being asked for several days.

Trump’s visit to Louisiana is being panned by many as phony, as nothing but a photo-op and a political stunt. That may be entirely true, but it misses an important point. For days, the disaster here was almost ignored. The riots in Milwaukee were the headline news, while Louisiana was relegated to the crawl. Americans could be forgiven for thinking that the disaster was relatively minor, not the biggest natural disaster to hit the U.S. since superstorm Sandy hit New York and New Jersey.

People who have suffered a disaster can use all the support they can get, but Louisianans are a close-knit and hospitable bunch. Obama sent in FEMA, but the people of Louisiana got to work rescuing their neighbors, then helping out and putting up people who are in worse shape than themselves.

What they didn’t get for days that would have been appreciated was acknowledgment that they were in a hard spot. Obama might have taken some time between rounds of golf to call a press conference and tell Louisiana, “Things are bad, we know it’s tough, but our prayers are with you.” He might have sent the FEMA director to hold a news conference in Baton Rouge. “We’ll do what we can, and America is with you.”

They said nothing. Their concern was as invisible as the disaster that displaced 40,000 people and wiped away their homes, their clothes, their photos and their kids’ toys.

Trump may be as phony as a three-dollar bill, but he came. His 18-wheeler might have been just a drop in the bucket, but it was a bigger drop than we got from the Clinton Foundation, and the idea of it encouraged people who received none of its contents. And Trump, or some smart person in his organization, remembered that among the displaced people who had lost everything, there were children.

The media’s Trump bashing in light of events in Louisiana is grotesque. They ignored the disaster for days, and the New York Times admitted that its stories until Tuesday came from the AP and one lone stringer. The media now say Trump has played politics, and perhaps he has, but he also lifted some spirits and acknowledged people who were ignored when the flood waters rose. Doing the right thing counts, even when it’s done for politics.

Hillary Clinton would have been welcome, too, and Obama, even if some police had to attend to his security.

But now, when Obama finally comes with words of support and concern, it will seem a bit fake, a bit like the person who didn’t come to see you while you were critically ill for concern of “getting in the way” and says he sent flowers, but is happy to see that you’re getting better. Still, he will be welcome. Even in disaster, the people of Louisiana are hospitable. Bring some Play-Doh for the kids, Mr. President. The kids won’t be much impressed by underwear.

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Jim Picht
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics. He teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years doing economic development work in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He has also worked in Latin America, the former USSR and the Balkans as an educator, teaching courses in economics and law at universities in Ukraine and at finance ministries throughout the region. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.