The day Trump threw paper towels at Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico pic.twitter.com/wldQdXnnTo— Carbonated.TV (@CarbonatedTV) October 4, 2017
As promised, President Donald Trump visited the hurricane-hit island of Puerto Rico on Wednesday — two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall. Obviously, it was a disaster of epic proportions.
Where to begin?
Let’s start with how the president said Maria was not a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina and the island should be proud only 16 people died. (The death toll is in fact 34 now.)
Comparison to Hurricane Katrina
Trump entered the storm-ravaged Caribbean island and told Puerto Rican officials that their death toll was much less than when Hurricane Katrina struck.
“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's ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud,” the president proclaimed proudly.
“Proud” is not even close to what the citizens of Puerto Rico feel. Trump’s decision to mention Hurricane Katrina as a benchmark and compare its death count with Maria’s trivializes Puerto Ricans' suffering. It’s true the 2005 hurricane resulted in an official count of 1,833 deaths but for the families of the 34 people who died, the loss is no less heartbreaking.
Shortly after Trump left the island, Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced in San Juan that the number of deaths related to Maria has risen to 34. Officials have also acknowledged the number will rise even higher and the Center for Investigative Journalism reported that there are “at least several dozen additional victims, possible even hundreds.” So any discussion of death toll is premature and insensitive.
Launching Paper Towels
Trump entered Calvary Chapel, an evangelical church that has been converted to a disaster relief distribution center outside San Juan, as if he were an A-list movie star on the red carpet, waved his hand and smiled benignly at the crowd. He then took hold of the paper towel rolls on the table and lobbed them at the crowd as if he were a basketball player, amidst dozens of camera flashes. Obviously, the president didn’t think it was the least bit offensive.
He also held up cans of meat and proclaimed he never saw such a thing before, and handed out flashlights while saying, "You don't need them anymore." As CNN reports, 93 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power.
Blamed Puerto Rico For Throwing U.S. Budget ‘Out Of Whack’
At the briefing table, the president pointed out budget director Mick Mulvaney and ostensibly joked about how much Puerto Rico’s disaster cost the U.S.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” said the president with a smirk, as if the disaster was their fault and the Puerto Ricans should bow down to him to show their gratefulness.
However, Puerto Rico’s economy is not a laughing matter.
Even before the hurricane, the Caribbean nation’s economy was in shambles and the U.S. territory had a debt of almost $70 billion, 45 percent poverty rate and 2.5 times the unemployment rate of the U.S.
Repeated Implications Puerto Ricans Are Lazy
Trump departed with a few choice insults to Puerto Rico. No doubt he thought they were constructive criticism. As he has repeatedly done in the past two weeks, the president once again complained it was not the federal government that is inefficient but rather Puerto Rican authorities who are not doing enough to help themselves.
“We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks,” Trump whined, despite the facts that roads are being cleared. “On a local level, they have to give us more help.”
Effusive Praise for Himself
Obviously, no visit is completed before Trump praising himself and his administration.
“He started right at the beginning appreciating what we did... He didn't play it at all. He was saying it like it was, and he was giving us the highest grade,” Trump said of Gov. Rossello, though really he is praising himself. The president’s probably thinking, “People are saying bad things about me, but the Puerto Rican governor proved those haters wrong.”
“She was saying such nice things about all of the people who have worked so hard. Jenniffer, do you think you can say a little bit about what you said about us?” he once again praised himself by pointing out Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, who he watched on TV commenting on how the Trump administration was handling the hurricane crisis.
After she once again praised him, Trump said victoriously, “We saw those comments and everyone saw those comments.”
He once again focused on his administration’s “stellar” performance while handling the crisis while talking to reporters on Tuesday.
“In Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus,” Trump said. “And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico.”
If Trump’s visit was an attempt to belie the impression the president was not taking the crisis seriously, it just fell flat.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst