Donald Trump told attendees at a reception at the White House on Thursday night that before the last few weeks he “never knew a Category 5″ hurricane existed.
“In Florida you got hit with the strongest winds ever recorded. It actually hit the Keys with a—it was a Category 5. I never even knew a Category 5 existed. And they suffered greatly.”
And as strange as this was – a 71-year-old man who watches a lot of television had never heard of a Category 5 hurricane? – it wasn’t the most surprising thing Trump said yesterday in reference to the deadly storms. Consider this exchange aboard Air Force One yesterday between the president and reporters:
Q: Mr. President, the severity of these storms – the one in Florida, the one in Texas – has that made you rethink your views of climate change?
TRUMP: Well, we’ve had bigger storms than this. And if you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this. If you go back into the Teens, you’ll see storms that were as big or bigger. So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms. But if you go back into the ’30s and ’40s, and you go back into the Teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, okay?
Let’s take a step back for a moment. As Hurricane Harvey approached Texas’ gulf coast, Trump couldn’t stop marveling at its size and intensity. At a news conference, he said, “I’ve heard the words, ‘epic.’ I’ve heard ‘historic.’ That’s what it is.” It followed a tweet in which Trump added, “Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen.”
For a while, I assumed this was the president’s way of conveying a sense of urgency to the public, but the more Trump gushed, the more it seemed he was referring to the scope of the challenge on his shoulders.