President Donald Trump flew to Florida on Thursday to see the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Irma up close.
Soon after Air Force One landed, he gave a few brief remarks touting the hard work of the various state and federal agencies. Then Trump said this about Florida Gov. Rick Scott:
“I hope this man right here Rick Scott runs for the Senate. I don’t know what he is going to do. I know that a certain point it ends to you and we can’t let it end, so I hope he runs for Senate.”
Don’t believe me? Watch it yourself.
You can see Scott, clearly surprised by such an overtly political pitch from the President, try to talk through the applause that follows Trump’s remark.
Remember that Trump is on an official presidential trip. Politicians usually stay away from playing politics in these moments. That goes double – or more like quadruple – when you are visiting a place where a natural disaster has struck less than a week ago.
Know the old phrase “There’s a time and a place for everything”? Well, Trump doesn’t.
None of that is to say that there isn’t politics in how politicians handle natural disasters. There, of course, is. I would argue that George W. Bush’s presidency was hurt more by his botched handling of Hurricane Katrina than his decision to enter into a second Gulf War. Barack Obama’s presidency flagged for a time as the BP oil spill raged.
Any time lots of people are paying attention to the same thing – and the national media is too – there are major political implications. Rick Scott, of course, knows that. He is aware that if he is judged to having handled the precursor and aftermath of Irma well, then it will likely improve his prospects against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next November. (Scott has said he is thinking about the race but isn’t expected to make a decision any time soon.)
But, Scott knows better than to talk about his own political ambitions while people in his state are struggling with no running water and no electricity. People don’t want politicians to act politically in moments like this.
Or, at least that’s what the “old” rules say. Trump broke so many of those rules in getting elected in 2016 that maybe this is just another one that doesn’t matter anymore. But it sure felt tone-deaf in the moment.