You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Opinion: Biden helped the people of Mississippi. As usual, Trump helped himself

CNN 3/27/2023 Dean Obeidallah

This weekend, we were reminded about a major reason that President Joe Biden soundly defeated Donald Trump in 2020.

© Provided by CNN Dean Obeidallah

At a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump demonstrated his usual egoism and selfishness, making everything about himself, while Biden put on display a full measure of the compassion and empathy that we have come to expect from our leaders when responding to a devastating disaster.

The president’s response to the devastating tornado in Mississippi that has claimed at least 26 lives was classic Biden. He released a statement Saturday expressing sympathy for those affected by the disaster, saying that he and First Lady Jill Biden “are praying for those who have lost loved ones in the devastating tornadoes in Mississippi and for those whose loved ones are missing.”

Of course, it’s not just what Biden said, it’s what he did: The President spoke by phone on Saturday to everyone from the FEMA Administrator and Mississippi officials to the Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to members of Congress from the deeply red state, almost all of whom are Republicans. They discussed the US government response to the devastation and his commitment to provide assistance, with the President offering “full federal support as communities recover from the effects of this storm.”

Reeves, while touring the destruction early Saturday, told reporters that he had already spoken to Biden that morning, adding that a federal emergency declaration to provide assistance to the state was already in the works.

“The president assured me that as soon as he got it, he would sign it,” Reeves said. And early Sunday, Biden did in fact sign an emergency disaster declaration to aid recovery and clean-up efforts, including federal funding grants for temporary housing.

Friday night’s tornado reached wind speeds estimated at 170 miles per hour, leaving behind jaw-dropping devastation. The mayor of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, which was flattened by the tornado, tragically summed up the extent of the destruction, saying that the “city is gone.”

US Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican who represents the state, on Saturday shared that Biden had called her earlier in the day, adding, “The president assured me he would expedite anything to help those in Mississippi.” Hyde-Smith added, “So we’re grateful.”

It’s hard to overlook the fact that Trump, when he was president made much less effort to be even handed about doling out aid to those in need from blue states during times of disaster.

The former president chose to hold his first 2024 presidential rally in Waco, Texas, a city which is marking 30 years since the 1993 standoff between the Branch Davidian religious extremist sect and the federal authorities. An FBI raid on the compound ultimately left 76 people dead, including 26 children.

Critics have slammed Trump’s decision to hold the event in the central Texas city: The weeks-long siege in Waco three decades ago has become a rallying cry for right wing, anti-government violence. But on Friday, while appearing on Newsmax, Trump side-stepped the criticism, instead talking about the expected crowd size at the following day’s campaign event.

The rally at the Waco Regional Airport was a return to the MAGA rallies reminiscent of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns, as the Republican field for the 2024 presidential race begins to take shape. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, who spoke at the event, told attendees that he had urged Trump to hold the rally in Waco because it was centrally located and could attract Trump supporters from around the state – and that he had been utterly unaware of the 30th anniversary of the violent confrontation involving the Branch Davidians – an assertion that strains credulity.

Trump’s rally is what I view as the most anti-American start ever to a presidential campaign by a major party candidate.

Standing on stage, he placed his hand on his heart while the recording of a song, “Justice for All” played over the speakers. The soundtrack was performed by a choir of people imprisoned for their roles in the January 6 terrorist attack at the US Capitol, interspersed with a recording of Trump saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Footage from the insurrection was played on a giant screen behind the former president.

A few minutes into the hour-and-a-half-long speech, Trump did make brief mention of the tornado in Mississippi stating, “Before we begin, I also want to express our sadness to and send our prayers to everyone in Mississippi and Alabama who has been touched by the devastating tornadoes,” adding, that “we love you all.”

He then quickly pivoted to a rhetorical attack on the “corrupt, rotten and sinister forces trying to destroy America” and repeated the lie of “rigged” elections. As The New York Times reported: “Trump devoted long stretches of his speech to his own legal jeopardy rather than his vision for a second term, casting himself as a victim of ‘weaponization’ of the justice system.”

Obviously, Biden, as president, has an ability to help people that Trump does not. But Trump’s hands are not tied: He did find a way, after all, to visit the site of the Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment last month in East Palestine, Ohio, when it suited his political interests.

Yet, in the aftermath of a devastating storm that devastated parts of a region where he enjoys broad support, Trump was mostly focused on what he always has been since he entered the world of politics: Trump.

Shortly before the close of his speech in Waco, the former president – who faces potential criminal charges in various jurisdictions – rattled off a list of those he believes to be his political opponents from “the fake news media” to “RINOs” (Republicans in name only) to President Biden. He then vowed to his supporters, “We will liberate America from these villains and tyrants who are looking to destroy our country.”

By contrast, President’s Biden statement closed with the words, “To those impacted by these devastating storms, and to the first responders and emergency personnel working to help their fellow Americans: we will do everything we can to help,” adding, “We will be there as long as it takes. We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover.”

Again, this – if we needed it – is a reminder of why Joe Biden is in the White House, and why Donald Trump was the first president since George H. W. Bush in 1992 to lose re-election.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon