Christie: Was Trump too focused on himself to feel Harvey victims’ pain?

Our president can’t help himself. He just cannot help himself.

As he exited a firehouse in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump noticed a crowd of about 800 people. He grabbed a lone star Texas flag and shouted back at his supporters: “What a crowd! What a turnout!”

And there you have it. Minutes after managing to show leadership while sitting at a table of local, state and federal officials managing the catastrophic mess of Tropical Storm Harvey, the president couldn’t resist the lure of the adoring crowd.

And as a result, raise questions about his inability to show true compassion for those who are suffering.

I know, I know… this simply sounds like nit-picking. Only it’s not.

Nit-picking would be making hay of first lady Melania Trump walking to Marine One in a pair of expensive snake-skin, spiked heels — on her way to “helping” storm victims. That’s trivial in the grand scheme of things. So I’m not doing that.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, holds up a Texas flag after speaking with supporters outside Firehouse 5 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday, where he received a briefing on Harvey relief efforts. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This is about our president, and the tens of thousands of Texans who want to believe that he feels their pain.

He had the opportunity, but he didn’t close the deal.

The president, despite criticism about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio on Friday, had pushed aides from the beginning to schedule a visit to Texas as early as possible after Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane. He has made sure to say repeatedly that all necessary federal resources would be made available to relief efforts; and the crucial Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has performed admirably, coordinating with Texas state and local officials.

RELATED LINK: Trump, in Texas, Calls Harvey Recovery Response Effort a ‘Real Team’

Trump even made the right call Tuesday by going to the Gulf Coast city of Corpus Christi, largely avoiding being a distraction from the catastrophic flooding that was ravaging the Houston area about 200 miles to the northeast.

“It’s a real team, and we want to do it better than ever before,” Trump said of the response effort during a briefing with officials in the Corpus Christi firehouse that resembled more a board meeting. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”

More than 9,000 and counting have gathered at the downtown evacuation center at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Tuesday in Houston. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

That’s all good. But even during the briefing, Trump had to be pulled back from P.T. Barnum-mode after introducing FEMA administrator Brock Long as “the man who’s really been very famous on television over the last couple of days.”

Long quickly responded that “all eyes are on Houston, and so are mine,” cautioning that rescue and recovery efforts still have “a long way to go.”

“We’re still in a life-saving, life-sustaining mission,” he added, as if intending to re-focus the president’s attention where it should be — on the victims, especially in Houston where 9,000 residents fleeing rising floodwaters crammed into a makeshift shelter designed to accommodate 5,000.

“This is not the Superdome,” Long said, referring to the chaos residents of New Orleans endured while seeking shelter at a sports arena after Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

“At the convention center, we are sustaining food,” he added. “I have an incident management team inside the city of Houston. And more and more people are being moved to shelters to stabilize the situation.”

People navigate through floodwaters with their belongings during flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Long’s sobering focus was made surreal by the split-screen video feed from Houston that showed simultaneously on every major news channel that carried the briefing. Images of people wading through water chest deep, carrying babies and pets. The self-described “Redneck Navy” risking their own lives and boats to find trapped residents and get them to safety. Neighbors fighting against rushing floodwaters to form a human chain to get a nine-months-pregnant woman aboard a dump truck.

It was an awesome sight. America at its best, to be sure.

And in Corpus Christi, which, by comparison, had sustained relatively light damage from the storm, there was Trump still managing to seem like he was above it all standing atop a fire truck.

“Texas can handle anything,” he said, waving the state flag to cheers.

No handshakes. No hugs. No words of comfort whispered in any ears.

Well, even Trump knew this lack of empathy didn’t play well. This morning, he tweeted:

Indeed. It was a seeming disconnect made worse shortly thereafter by the mayor and police chief of Houston delivering the somber news that a Houston Police Department officer had died in the relief effort around 4 a.m. Sunday. Officer Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the force, drowned when his car was submerged driving through a flooded underpass as he tried to get to his “secondary” duty station after not being able to find a path to his primary station, according to Police Chief Art Acevedo.

“We couldn’t find him,” Acevedo said through tears.

Once the dive team got to the scene, it was “too treacherous to go under and look for him,” Acevedo said.

“We could not put more officers at risk,” he said.

The dive team went back out at 8 a.m. Tuesday and found Perez “within 20 minutes,” Acevedo said.

At last 20 people, including Perez, have been confirmed dead as a result of the storm, officials said.

Today would be a good time for the president to reach out to Acevedo and Mayor Sylvester Turner, whom Trump has basically avoided to this point.

It is possible, given all of the misery they are currently experiencing from the deluge of Tropical Storm Harvey, that Texas residents — especially those in Houston — could care less whether the president feels their pain.

Maybe this early test of Trump’s talents as comforter in chief will be less of a showcase for him to demonstrate compassion, and more one for leadership. To that end, maybe all frustrated and exhausted residents really care about is an adequate response.

Maybe. But they also want to know that the president cares more about them than he does himself. That he won’t be standing above an adoring crowd blowing kisses while they and their family are sleeping on cots in a over-crowded, makeshift shelter.

Sure, it’s symbolic; but symbolism matters — just ask former President George W. Bush.

President Trump plans on making a second trip to the region on Saturday. This time including a swing through Louisiana, which is starting to feel the brunt of the storm today.

Rarely do we get second chances to make good impressions. I hope the president makes the most of his.

Christie: Removing Confederate monuments is not erasing history

This is a view of the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

There are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S. — the vast majority in the South — according to the latest figures.

And there are many in Florida cities like Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville and yes, West Palm Beach. The latter is actually a private monument to Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the city.

Standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The city’s legal department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument. But nothing yet.

This week, as the violent and tragic events of Charlottesville, Va., continue to dominate the news and political discussion — largely because of equivocal, ill-advised statements from President Donald J. Trump — the debate over whether these monuments should be taken down has once again heated up.

In fact, here are links to two opposing viewpoints in the Confederate monuments debate:

RELATED: Commentary: Confederate monuments about maintaining white supremacy

RELATED: Commentary: Why we need Confederate monuments

Overnight Tuesday, Baltimore took down four statues of Confederate monuments after it was ordered by the state’s Republican governor. And in Charlotte, N.C., protesters had pulled down a Confederate statue earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the white nationalist groups behind the Charlottesville event have promised to have more rallies and demonstrations to preserve these monuments. Whether they will have further access to university campuses is another issue. This week, both Texas A&M University and the University of Florida denied Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute permission to speak on their respective campuses.

In the case of UF — full disclosure: my alma mater — President Kent Fuchs rightly denied the request to rent campus space to the “alt-right” movement leader “after assessing potential risks” campus, local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

Continued calls “online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is Florida’ ” also played a role in Wednesday’s decision, Fuchs said.

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

In a July 31 blog post, I made note of this debate after various Palm Beach Post letter writers shared their views on either side of the debate.

RELATED: Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Among the blog post’s 500-plus comments emerged the interesting question of whether by removing these monuments to the Confederacy from public lands, we are seeking to hide an ugly part of U.S. history.

Aside from the preponderance of expected racist opinions, there were many like the following that stimulated an interesting intellectual discussion:

— Only an idiot would want to destroy history. Leave the monument alone. — Jimmy Anderson

— Now it will be Confederate memorials demonstrating history; and next it will be what? Could be anything that offends a group of people. If we don’t acknowledge history, it will repeat itself. And a lot of it is not necessarily good; but hopefully we have learned from it … leave the memorials! — Mo Earle

— Leave our history alone. Tearing down monuments does nothing be cheat future generations out of history… American history. The good and the bad. — Gennifer Cseak

Agreed, but there’s no rule that says that “history” must remain in a specific public space. Many of these monuments are front of city halls, major parks and other taxpayer-funded places that are frequented by the people who would be most offended by them as vestiges of slavery.

As a compromise, these memorials should be removed and placed in a taxpayer-funded museum where people who want to view them and further study history can do so at their leisure. After all, you can’t find a monument to Nazism in an outdoor public space anywhere in Germany.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Goodman: On opposing Trump on bigotry, Marco Rubio sets an example

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks to reporters as he walks toward the Senate floor on July 18 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I’m usually quick to slam Marco Rubio for a lack of spine, so it’s only fair to applaud him when he shows some.

On Wednesday, he became the first Republican member of the Senate to slam President Donald Trump, blazing on Twitter:

-@marcorubio: “The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. 1/6

 Rubio: “They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin. 2/6”

 Rubio: “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you,it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them 3/6”

 Rubio: “These groups today use SAME symbols & same arguments of #Nazi & #KKK, groups responsible for some of worst crimes against humanity ever 4/6”

 Rubio: “Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6”

 Rubio: “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected 6/6”

I particularly like Number 3.

To watch an American president all but side with armed, torch-bearing punks shouting Klan and neo-Nazi slogans was sickening. For many people in Palm Beach County, the home of his oh-so-precious Mar-a-Lago, this is personal.

This county has one of the densest Jewish populations in America. It’s been home for generations to many black people. It’s an important destination for immigrants from Haiti, Guatemala and other countries poor in political tolerance.

The Palm Beach Post editorial board warned about Donald Trump’s softness on bigotry as early as March 2016, during the primaries when there was still plenty of time for Republicans to repudiate the man and derail his candidacy. They didn’t.

And now this great nation is headed by a president who refuses to stand up for the most fundamental of American principles.

It is a time for everyone else — particularly other leaders — to do the standing up.

Be like Marco.

Munoz: Teens taking fewer summer jobs, but don’t call them lazy

Palm Beach Skate Zone employee Heather Shapiro, 18, of Loxahatchee, carries ice cream to a freezer on Saturday, May 25, 2013. Shapiro said this was her first job. (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

By Valeria Munoz

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Fewer teens are working summer jobs. Although it’s easy to assume that teens are lounging by the pool rather than filling out applications, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Teens are finding other ways to achieve personal growth. The majority are sacrificing their summer plans to volunteer, intern, or further their academic studies.

According to a report from CBS News, the number of teens in the workforce has decreased, with only 36% of teens working in 2016. Manager of Cannoli Kitchen’s east location in Boca Raton, Connie Smith agrees. Compared with last year, she has noticed fewer teenagers in this summer’s interviews.

It’s clear to me though, that, despite not serving tables or ringing up customers’ purchases, they still have their priorities straight.

In fact, the CBS report shows teens and parents see the value in pursuing higher education; 42% of American teens are enrolled in summer classes. Schools have become more competitive and students are taking note and stepping up their game.

University of Central Florida student, Kelly Furbish,18, is a perfect example. She is spending the summer getting a head start on college and becoming familiar with the campus before the flood of fall students. She says that attending classes with a smaller roster has its benefits.

“The professors are more personal which makes it easier to learn and get help, along with having a manageable course load. In the summer, you have the option to take two to three classes,” she said.

While some would rather hit the books, a lucky few manages to snag a job prior to summer.

One of those teens is Lauren Pires, 17, a Cannoli Kitchen employee, who thought acquiring a job was a productive use of her time. Not only has she accumulated work experience, but she’s learned to deal with people of different personalities.

“I wasn’t particularly interested in any sports or clubs at school,” Pires said. “But I wanted to spend my time wisely on an activity that would help me in the future and not sit around at home,”

Thus, it’s not that teens don’t recognize the importance of a summer job. More often than not, businesses have already filled spots with older workers or even teens themselves, during the school year to pay for the many costs connected to public school particularly senior year.

From honor society fees to sport team dues to prom, teens have to find a way to fund for these events sooner rather than later. This, in turn, forces businesses to be more selective of who they hire during the summer.

Whether they book a 9-to-5 shift or school becomes their full-time job, teens deserve more credit. They are certainly thinking ahead and past their summer bucket lists.

Valeria Munoz, a recent graduate of Boca Raton High School, is majoring in journalism in college and is a summer intern at the Palm Beach Post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christie: Boynton Beach girl’s death reminder of Internet dangers for kids

Ki’ari Pope died July 31 after drinking boiling water out of a staw on a dare. The Florida Department of Children and Families is investigating the 8-year-old Boynton Beach girl’s death. (Photo courtesy of the family)

Kids can and will do the darnedest, most dangerous things.

These things can make us laugh at how silly they are. Until a child is hurt, that is.

And then there is an almost immediate reaction that “well, it wouldn’t happen with my child.”

Sure it can. Especially in this day and age of Internet accessibility, and kids — even those in elementary school — carrying smartphones.

Tell me. Why wouldn’t your inquisitive little third-grader — the one with the short attention span — use some of that available data on your family plan to tool around the Internet looking for, well, stuff?

And let’s be honest. It’s not like they even need the Internet. Kids provide plenty of heart-stopping incidents sans the World Wide Web.

I’ve often told the story of how our daughter, Taylor, nearly scared my wife and I to death when she was about three years old.

Taylor was painfully curious, precocious; gifted with a single dimple and an infectious laugh. We would always catch her getting into things she shouldn’t be, and then laughing it off with her afterward.

There was this one time, however, we didn’t laugh. And neither did she. I was finishing up cutting the lawn one Saturday afternoon when I saw Klemie standing at the kitchen window frantically waving. I stopped and turned off the lawnmower to hear her yelling, “Get in here! Hurry!”

I ran into the front of the house, back to the kitchen area to see Rachel, our then 6-year-old, to my right sitting on the family room floor crying. Klemie was to my left in the kitchen seemingly alternating between anger and fear. Then I looked down to see Taylor standing and screaming. Her new gold turtleneck shirt was in tatters. Tatters that looked to be stuck to various parts of her torso.

Klemie calmed down enough to say, “your daughter” had gotten into the kitchen knick-knack drawer and proceeded to open and play with a tube of super glue. The quick-drying glue had soaked through the shirt in some areas, adhering to her body. One area was on her wrist, which Taylor didn’t like. So she tried to pull it off, tearing her skin, and letting out a blood-curdling wail that brought her mom running. Klemie began cutting the shirt off with some scissors where she could, but that still left the patches of material stuck to Taylor’s body.

That’s where I come in. After asking a couple of what now seem like dumb questions, we called Poison Control. After explaining our emergency, the lady calmly asked whether Taylor had ingested the glue. She hadn’t. She then asked whether we had a bottle of Wesson oil. We did. She said to “calmly” place Taylor in the sink, pour the oil all over her torso and slowly rub the areas where the patches of shirt were stuck to her until they came loose.

Taylor calmed down, Rachel calmed down. Mom calmed down. Crisis ended. And we had yet another Taylor “adventure” to tell.

It would be hard to find a parent that doesn’t have a story like this; some more frightening than others.

Kids get into, and try things they shouldn’t all the time. No family is immune to this, no matter your income or education level. Because kids will be kids. That’s why they need our protection.

I was reminded of all this by the sad, tragic death of Ki’ari Pope, the 8-year-old Boynton Beach girl who died last week from breathing complications stemming from a stupid and dangerous game. The game: drinking boiling water out of a straw on a dare.

RELATED: Boynton Beach girl, 8, dead after dare to drink boiling water

The Florida Department of Children and Families’ Critical Incident Rapid Response Team is looking into the March incident. They said at least nine other allegations of either abuse or neglect have somehow involved the girl since her birth. But family members said Ki’ari and her siblings were never removed from the home, even after the boiling water incident.

You could get on your high horse and say, “well, that explains it… this would never happen to my child.” You could say that the kids should have known better. You could say that an adult should have been watching the kids.

Fine. And DCF should investigate fully to make sure that nothing nefarious contributed to Ki’ari’s death.

We all know, however, that no matter how “good” they are, kids are kids. They do things like playing with wall outlets, jumping in pools, riding on ATVs without helmets, and on and on.

Diane Johnson, cousin of the mother of Ki’ari Pope, speaks to the media on behalf of the family on August 3. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

According to her family, Ki’ari was a happy third-grader who loved school and basketball. She was also a strong-willed little girl. The kind of kid who, if you dared her, wouldn’t back down.

Small wonder then that on that fateful day in March, when her cousins dared her to try a “hot water challenge” they had all watched on YouTube, she didn’t back down.

Ki’ari ended up hospitalized with a tracheotomy but seemed to recover before succumbing on July 31. Her  family plans a funeral for her on Saturday at Johnson’s Memorial Chapel in Boynton Beach.

Do a quick search of “Hot Water Challenge” and up pops numerous — often graphic — videos on YouTube, some with millions of views.

RELATED: Mom of girl who died after drinking boiling water says: ‘She was full of life’

You will also find stories about Ki’ari.

“Tell your kids about these challenges, these challenges are horrific,” Ki’ari’s aunt Diane Johnson said. “Parents talk to your kids about these challenges, don’t just give them your phone and let them go by, watch what they are doing.”

Good advice. Many parents believe they are keeping their child safe these days by not letting them run loose outside.

The message from Ki’ari’s aunt, however — and echoed by child safety experts — is that you have to be just as vigilant with them inside the home. Maybe even more so because of access to the Internet.

Sadly, an 8-year-old reading at grade level can run rings around almost any adult on a computer. Whereas our minds are crammed with stuff like paying bills, their minds are like dry sponges absorbing information from every nook and cranny on the Web. And some of these places are very dark.

We want to believe they know better. We feed, house and clothe them. We send them to good schools. We take them on family vacations.

But they still need our protection.

To be sure, not every tragedy like Ki’ari Pope’s can be explained away this simply. There are some bad, selfish and unattentive adults out there. The state’s over-worked corps of child welfare investigators is a testament to that fact.

It’s too early to say that about Ki’ari’s case, however. The fact that she didn’t come from a “perfect” home makes it easy to pass judgement.

We should be careful. Even the best kids from the best homes will do things that make adults question their parenting skills.

And sometimes, we realize that we’re just damn lucky.

Christie: Post reader calls for PBC Judge Santino’s removal from bench

Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino speaks in front of a Judicial Qualifications Commission panel at the Palm Beach County Courthouse on August 2. Santino is accused of violating judicial canons during her campaign. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)

The topic of whether Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino should remain on the bench has been a hot one among Post Opinion readers for months.

And now, one Post reader writes that the Florida Supreme Court should remove her, and Gov. Rick Scott appoint her cheated opponent, West Palm Beach defense attorney Gregg Lerman.

I first blogged about it back in March, positing that same question from readers.

Here’s the skinny on what’s got so many folks agitated:

During a hard-fought and very testy campaign for a judicial seat last fall, Santino stepped over the line in criticizing Lerman. Santino said some pretty nasty things about what Lerman does for a living, i.e. defending criminals.

Turns out denigrating any part of the legal profession in such a way during a campaign is a no-no. Thus, Santino was charged with violating four canons that dictate how judicial candidates are to behave. The 49-year-old former guardianship and probate attorney has admitted that her attacks on Lerman violated two of them.

But, in court papers, her attorney, Jeremy Kroll, insists she has a stellar record of legal service and has learned from her mistakes. So instead of a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court that Santino be removed from office, he suggested the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) — a six-member panel of two judges, two lawyers and two citizens — save her nascent judicial career. Kroll suggested she receive a public reprimand and a $50,000 fine — the same punishment an Escambia County judge received in 2003 for making similar claims on the campaign trail.

RELATED: County Judge Santino’s future on bench now up to state panel

But in this case, precedent shouldn’t be prologue. And the fact Santino has exhibited good behavior since taking the bench would be like rewarding a driver who caused a major accident for being good driver for the few months until their trial.

Also, there just seems to be something wrong with addressing someone who admitted to doing something so dishonorable as “Your Honor.”

Yes, people makes mistakes. But to repeatedly make such mistakes, then fail to correct those actions, and then not acknowledge them after you’ve won tarnishes a judge and the robe they wear.

At a two-day hearing before the JQC last week, Santino was appropriately contrite and apologetic. But while casting herself as a “political neophyte,” she also deflected blame onto her political consultant, Richard Giorgio.

It just doesn’t wash.

What’s really unfortunate is that Santino might actually make a decent jurist if allowed to remain on the bench. But she might not. And what kind of message would that send to future judicial candidates, as well as the defendants and attorneys that would come before her?

And letter published on Tuesday morning’s Post Opinion page reflects that sentiment:

Dump Santino; put Lerman on bench

Dana Santino has now confessed to the Judicial Qualifications Commission charged with determining her fitness for the county court bench. She says she made a terrible mistake trusting her “hired gun” consultant’s advice and libeling her opponent in last fall’s race, Gregg Lerman, through vicious emails sent to county voters and an infamous “Truth About Gregg Lerman” Facebook page.

An Air Force general I worked for once told me, “Integrity means doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.” What could be a greater “fail” than for Santino to do the wrong thing when everyone’s looking? And then to double down and defend her actions repeatedly when called into question before Election Day, when there still was time to clean up her campaign?

The right thing to happen now is for the JQC panel to remove Santino from the bench. Then when Gov. Rick Scott appoints her replacement, the next right thing to do would be to appoint Lerman to the judge’s chair that he almost certainly would have won outright if not for Santino’s outrageous and illegal conduct.

That would be a remarkable act of statesmanship by the governor, for Lerman successfully sued the governor last year to prevent him from appointing the judgeship in the first place, forcing it onto the ballot so citizens like us could make the decision. It would mean Scott could set aside personal animus and do the fair thing that, intuitively, would very likely have been the will of the voters, had Santino not cheated so brazenly and fearlessly.

What a refreshing and encouraging message that action by our governor would send in this time of cynical partisanship.

STEVE EVERETT, SINGER ISLAND