Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Disgraceful Puerto Rico Attack

Trump’s Disgraceful Puerto Rico Attack

Donald Trump on the campaign trail in March 2016. Credit:Windover Way Photography

Trump’s attack on San Juan’s Mayor Yulin Cruz this morning included a broader insult to people in Puerto Rico:

At 7:09 a.m., Trump wrote: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

Seven minutes later, he wrote: “…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….”

“…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort [bold mine-DL]. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

Attacking a local official who is pleading for help in the middle of a major disaster would be a cruel and politically inept thing to do in any case, but Trump manages to make it worse by casting blame on the overall local response in the wake of what is generally acknowledged to be the worst disaster in Puerto Rico’s history. He accuses leaders in Puerto Rico and the population more generally of wanting “everything to be done for them” because one of their politicians criticized the federal government for an inadequate response to the disaster. That’s a contemptible response to legitimate criticism, and a disgraceful way to treat Americans who are going through one of the biggest disasters on record. Trump cannot excuse the lacking federal response by pointing to the scale of the disaster and then fault local officials for not doing enough, and it is obnoxious to suggest that the “community effort” has been insufficient when this is a disaster that he very publicly neglected for most of the last week.

To put the damage the hurricane did in perspective, Solomon Hsiang and Trevor Houser compared Maria with other intense storms and found this:

Hurricane Maria was an absolute monster. By our calculation, the average exposure in Puerto Rico was winds of 123 miles per hour. Normally, only small areas get slammed, and indeed some locations suffered through Category 5 winds of 158 m.p.h. But what stands out about Maria is that if you were anywhere in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, you would have been experiencing something that felt like passing through a strong Category 3 hurricane. There was nowhere to hide.

Scouring an entire territory the way Maria did is not normal. Of the more than 13,000 cyclone events around the world since 1950 (an event is one hurricane or typhoon hitting one country), only five topped Maria in their overall average intensity [bold mine-DL], according to data gathered for a 2014 study one of us did with Amir Jina of the University of Chicago.

They go on to note that “no Atlantic hurricane was a disaster as epic as Maria slamming into Puerto Rico.” The devastation wrought in Puerto Rico isn’t just unprecedented for the island, but in the last sixty-plus years of records there is no other comparably intense storm in this part of the world. Trump should stop berating the people struggling to cope with the aftermath of that storm, and his administration should be significantly increasing their efforts in order to make up for the failings of the federal response thus far.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles