Balance of Power: Trump’s Presidency in the Eye of the Storm

Donald Trump’s supporters might have hoped that Hurricane Harvey would allow him to look presidential, to be calm amid the chaos, helpful amid the hurt.

On his first trip to Texas yesterday, Trump did what he needed to do. He took some heat for not mentioning the victims but talking about the size of the crowd. Melania Trump’s stilettos raised eyebrows. But all in all, Trump struck the right tone, holding up the Lone Star state flag for a memorable image -- and Melania changed to sneakers in time for the tour.

Does all this rewrite the narrative on Trump as a flawed and impetuous leader? Not exactly. The floodwaters won’t wash away Charlottesville or the Russia probes or a string of staff firings.

What Trump’s supporters forget is that the president is supposed to look presidential at a moment like this. Mess up, like George W. Bush during Katrina, and you really get in trouble. But you don’t get too many points just for showing up.

Photographer: JIM WATSON/AFP

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Global Headlines

To rebuild or not | Harvey, which made a second landfall today in Louisiana as a tropical storm, has highlighted a little-publicized aspect of the climate change debate: whether the U.S. should respond to the growing threat of extreme weather by changing how and, even where, homes are built. Christopher Flavelle reports from Texas on how residents are responding.

Floods in Mumbai | On the other side of the world, the heaviest rains in 12 years paralyzed India’s financial capital, with transport grinding to a halt and trading volumes sliding. Crippling the decades-old rail network that carries 8 million people a day, the deluge raises questions about the efficiency of public infrastructure projects. And with more rain expected, there are memories of the 2005 cloudburst that killed 570 people.

Tax push kickoff | Trump will get a chance to play political offense today on the biggest legislative initiative on his agenda. He heads to Missouri to launch a Republican push for overhauling the tax code. Don’t expect specifics, though. He’s leaving those to Congress.

The poor and the populists | The number of Italians living below the poverty line has almost tripled over the past decade, fueling the rise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Now, as John Follain reports, the populists’ plans for an extensive aid program -- one that echoes universal basic income schemes being considered around the world -- are prompting mainstream parties to consider raising spending for the poor before elections next year.

White House’s Korea playbook | When North Korea launched a missile over Japan, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and national security aides activated a plan aimed at reassuring allies. The idea, Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs report today, was to ensure the initial response came not as an off-the-cuff presidential tweet but a measured statement. Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, has said the test was a “meaningful prelude.”

German populists have a problem | The Alternative for Germany’s Alice Weidel says her party’s rhetoric is turning off mainstream voters. While projected to win its first seats on a platform of clamping down on immigration and breaking up the euro area, Weidel said in an interview that the AfD is considering a last-minute drive to appeal to women. Read more about the complex election process here

And finally... Bitcoin climbed to a new record this week, breaching the $4,500 mark for the first time ever as tensions with North Korea escalated. According to Camila Russo, this shows that while the biggest crypto currency is uncorrelated to markets on quiet days, it does act more like a safe haven when stress rises. It made another breakthrough, crossing $3,000, after Trump made his “fire and fury” remarks.

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter

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