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President Trump's Puerto Rico visit was singularly weird and offensive

2024-07-13 21:58:52      点击:410

You have to hand it to President Trump. The man knows how to take advantage of a crisis: by making it all about him.

When he traveled to the heavily damaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, he could've spent time listening to the needs of local officials and empathizing with storm survivors, many of whom have endured at least two weeks without power and reliable access to clean drinking water and food.

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Who better to understand how to improve the federal storm response than local officials on the ground, who are conducting and seeing the effects of the relief effort every day, right?

SEE ALSO:Photos reveal dire situation unfolding in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

Trump, however, rubbed salt in the wounds of proud Puerto Ricans on the island and scattered around the world. He not only failed to empathize with the hardships that storm survivors are experiencing, he basked in praise like a preening puppy.

Looking back at Trump's four-hour-long visit to the island, it's clear that this trip embodies the governing philosophy of this reality-TV president. Me, me, me, me, me ... and no criticism please.

Trump's four-hour-long visit to the island embodies the governing philosophy of this reality-TV president. Me, me, me, me, me.

When he wasn't soaking up praise, Trump complimented Puerto Rico for having a lower death toll than Hurricane Katrina, and made the bizarre and insulting comment that the number of deaths set it apart from "a real catastrophe like Katrina." That 2005 storm killed at least 1,800. That’s cold comfort to the families of the 34 people and counting who died on Puerto Rico, a figure that is expected to rise.

"If you look at the -- every death is a horror," Trump said. "But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with, really, a storm that was just totally overpowering -- nobody has ever seen anything like this," Trump said.

On a typical day, Trump's insatiable need for praise can be seen as a character flaw, and possibly just a quirk that's becoming a hallmark of his time in office. But in a crisis like the one in Puerto Rico, it can be far more insidious -- even deadly.

This is because it's clear to everyone involved in the relief effort that there is no knowledge at the top of government about the reality of what's going on at the ground. Instead, there's a requirement that they kowtow to his ego, even if the recovery work is hitting wall after wall of red tape.

Mashable ImageActivists rallied at Trump Tower to protest and criticize the Trump administration's response to Puerto Rico's needs in light of Hurricane Maria-caused damage, on Oct. 3, 2017.Credit: M. Stan Reaves/REX/Shutterstock

Everyone saw what happened to San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who begged the Trump administration for more help, but was instead repeatedly attacked as someone who was turning the storm into a political battle with the White House.

Most of the island remains without power, disease outbreaks are a growing threat as many residents lack access to clean drinking water, and other dire needs remain.

Trump's insatiable appetite for accolades was most evident at one of the Puerto Rico events on the president's schedule, which was supposed to be a briefing on storm relief efforts. Instead, it turned into another bizarre Potemkin Village-like cabinet meeting that Trump held at the White House on June 12. During that meeting, cabinet secretaries and senior staff members (some of whom are no longer in office) went around a table, showering Trump with praise.

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At Tuesday's meeting, representatives from FEMA, the Coast Guard, and other organizations took turns praising the federal response effort, which disaster management experts widely acknowledge has been too slow and is still inadequate.

After participating in the disaster briefing, Yulín Cruz told MSNBC that the whole meeting was just a stunt. “There was no exchange with anybody, with none of the mayors,” she told MSNBC. 

Not a single piece of constructive criticism was offered at this meeting or, according to Trump, at any of his encounters on the island.

This is staggering, considering the fact that most of the island remains without power, disease outbreaks are a growing threat as many residents lack access to clean drinking water, and other dire needs remain. It indicates two things. One, his advance team kept him away from meeting potentially unfriendly crowds and took him to an area that was relatively lightly damaged. And two, people were probably afraid to utter even a slightly negative comment to him.

There were plenty of things to discuss. Yet no one mentioned to Trump that FEMA has yet to grant Puerto Rico all the types of aid that it has provided to Texas and Florida, which were also hit by major hurricanes in recent weeks.

A FEMA spokesperson told Mashableon Tuesday the agency has not received a request from Puerto Rico for additional categories of public assistance, including money to rebuild the island's infrastructure, but that this may change soon.

Mashable ImagePresident Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd as he hands out supplies to people affected by Hurricane Maria at Calvary Chapel, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, 2017.Credit: AP/REX/Shutterstock

One would think that might have come up on Tuesday but, apparently not.

Aboard Air Force One during the flight home, it sounded like Trump was describing a quick golf trip rather than a visit to a storm ravaged, increasingly desperate island.

Here's how Trump described the trip:

"That was a terrific visit. That visit was terrific. Really great ... That was a great, great visit. Really loved it."

And this is how the president responded to a reporter's question about whether he heard any constructive criticism:

None. They were so thankful for what we’ve done. And the congresswoman will tell you that they are so thankful for what we’ve done. Even the bringing of the big -- you know, it’s the largest hospital boat in the world, and that arrived a little while ago ... But it’s been -- I think it’s been a great day. No, we only heard thank yous from the people of Puerto Rico. They’re great people. And it was really something that I enjoyed very much today, being with them.

Trump credited himself with going to Puerto Rico, given the rarity of presidential visits there.

Via Giphy

If only he had listened to the proud people of that island, or possessed thick enough skin to actually assess what is going wrong and what is going right with the relief effort.

It's entirely possible that his failure to lead with, you know, actual information will cost lives as aid slowly reaches heavily damaged inland areas.

Few things are less presidential than willful ignorance. It’s a tragedy that Puerto Ricans have to pay for it. Odds are, though, that they won’t be the last.


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