Lady Gaga performs for the five former U.S. presidents, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama during a concert at Texas A&M University benefiting hurricane relief efforts in College Station, Texas, U.S., October 21, 2017. Richard Carson / Reuters
Amid criticism that his administration was initially slow to aid ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump accused island leaders of "poor leadership," and later tweeted that, "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes" while saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency, first-responders and military personnel wouldn't be able to stay there forever.
But Rottinghaus said ex-presidents are seen as less polarizing than the current president.
"They can't get away from the politics of the moment," he said of current White House occupants. "Ex-presidents are able to step back and be seen as the nation's grandfather."
Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as "One America Appeal." In it, George W. Bush says, "People are hurting down here." His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, "We love you, Texas."
Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands.