The federal government’s emergency response to Hurricane Harvey will not and cannot be seriously reviewed and assessed for some time.
Much of the action is still under way — including rescues, shelter setups, evacuations and steps to restore power — while wind and rain continue to pound the Gulf Coast.
Widespread use of social media and intensive focus from news media helps keep people in the know, but also invites snap judgments about how President Donald Trump and his appointees are conducting themselves.
The story is, of course, about millions of people, not any politician’s instant words and gestures.
Trump said: “It’s a real team [effort], and we want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”
“We won’t say congratulations. We don’t want to do that,” Trump told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“You know, we don’t want to congratulate. We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished. But you have been terrific.”
David Axelrod, who was President Barack Obama’s political advisor, tweeted acidly that Trump’s remarks ended “without a word of concern or empathy from @POTUS for the many, many Americans who are trapped in a watery hell.”
Axelrod and others interpreted Trump’s remarks as early self-congralutation.
This bit of sniping from the sidelines might well be considered payback.
On Oct. 31, 2012, during storm Sandy, Trump tweeted rather peevishly: “Obama is now standing in a puddle acting like a president — give me a break.”
The day before, the president-to-be said: “Not only giving out money, but Obama will be seen today standing in water and rain like he is a real President — don’t fall for it.”
On Tuesday, Trump said FEMA administrator Brock Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” That may underrate Long, whom he appointed.
Long actually brought to the job some well-regarded experience in public emergency management as an official of Georgia and Alabama.
And much depends on the performance of state and local officials, having little if anything to do with the White House.
When plans work properly, the federal government plays a supporting and coordinating role in these crises.
The federal government also has a key funding role, which brings Congress into the picture.
New York pols from Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to Republican Rep. Peter King of Seaford say they will support aid for the Gulf region despite past callousness from some Texas politicians to aid appeals from New York.
Given the magnitude of this latest disaster, reviews of government’s nuts-and-bolts response to Harvey must wait, regardless of superficial snippets on Twitter and television.