Author discusses U.S. president’s role in handling crises

Sunny Kim

Tevi Troy, author of “Shall We Wake the President?” and former U.S. deputy secretary of health and human services, discussed how U.S. presidents should take an active role in resolving crises in the country in a discussion hosted by the UT Center for Politics and Governance on Monday at Batts Hall.

Troy spoke about how past presidents dealt with disasters occurring in the U.S., such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters, national security and more.

He gave the example of how President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill to give people aid during a drought, saying it was not the constitutional responsibility of the president to provide aid in a disaster. However, it is crucial for presidents to get involved during disasters, especially in modern times, Troy said. 

“Presidents are more involved today because of the expectations of the American people,” Troy said. “Because of communications, because we’re more aware of disasters and we see the images broadcasted on TV, but also because of the size and role of the federal government.”  

Regarding the ongoing election, Troy also mentioned the pros and cons of Clinton and Trump’s characteristics when it comes to dealing with disasters. 

“Clinton’s big problem is credibility,” Troy said. “She clearly has a credibility issue and credibility is essential in times of crisis. One of the problems is that [Trump] often talks without appearing to have all the facts and that is something you can’t do in terms of crisis. You have to know what’s going on before speaking on it.”

However, Troy said both candidates have positive characteristics that can help them. Troy said Clinton seems to know and understand the federal government while Trump has a good sense of the media and how to convey the right image in times of a disaster. 

Ryan Pakebusch, government and political communications senior, said he is curious to see how the upcoming presidential candidates would deal with cyber-attacks in the future.

“I’m curious about the cyber-attacks on our infrastructure, which is something we haven’t dealt with,” Pakebusch said. “We’re probably going to see it in the 21st century, so I’m curious to see how each president would figure something like that out.”

Ryan Streeter, director of the Center for Politics and Governance, said the purpose of the center is to bring students together to look at policy and politics.

“Too often we study politics separate from policy and policy separate from politics,” Streeter said. “In the real world, there are always political portions at work.”