Hurricane season officially starts in a little under two months. It’s never too early to start preparing. But if Gov. Henry McMaster has his way, some of South Carolina’s National Guard troops might be more than 1,000 miles away on the border between Texas and Mexico.
“This is the kind of things states do,” said Mr. McMaster with regards to the plan, which he discussed last week with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
That’s true. States certainly send National Guard troops to help out after natural disasters and other crises. South Carolina has even sent troops to the Mexican border to help build part of the existing wall there.
But sending National Guard members to Texas now is also the kind of thing candidates for the Republican nomination for governor do in order to out-Trump their opponents and please the president, who has been a close political ally of Mr. McMaster’s.
President Trump signed an executive order last week ordering more troops to Southwestern states, fulfilling a campaign promise to beef up security along the border with Mexico.
Improving border security is a smarter use of federal resources than, say, building a thousand more miles of wall. But Mr. Trump should consider a long-term ramping up of Border Patrol officers, who are trained to handle the specific complexities of the border, rather than a short-term reliance on the National Guard.
According to Mr. Trump’s administration, the troops will fly surveillance drones, clear brush and help build infrastructure. Those are worthwhile functions, but it’s not clear that existing border forces are insufficient.
And Mr. McMaster’s top priority should be South Carolina.
Already, experts are predicting a busy hurricane season. Researchers at Colorado State University predict seven hurricanes, three of which would be major storms. That would be less than last year, which had six major storms, but still above average.
South Carolina has been battered by three severe storms in the past four years, causing historic flooding among other costly and devastating impacts. The state’s National Guardsmen had a role in helping communities recover after those events.
There also is plenty of work to be done to make parts of the state — particularly coastal areas like the Charleston region — more resilient to future storms. Presumably, the National Guard troops could be deployed to work on that kind of infrastructure as well.
Hurricane season starts in June and runs through November. But the tropics were already stirring months before the traditional season began the past two years.
Gov. McMaster has also echoed President Trump in a push to outlaw so-called sanctuary cities in South Carolina, even though there aren’t any in the state. His latest move is a similarly transparent political ploy.
That’s not to say that immigration and border security aren’t issues worth addressing. Congress must consider a variety of immigration-related issues in the coming months including, most pressingly, providing long-term protections for “Dreamers.”
Keeping the border secure is vital. So is helping out other states in need. But Gov. McMaster should not compromise South Carolina’s preparedness to handle a natural disaster.