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Trump’s Mishandling of the Puerto Rico Disaster

This morning the president made [1] a bizarre series of statements about Puerto Rico:

President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that recovery workers will not stay “forever.”

In a trio of tweets, Trump wrote” “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Hurricane Maria made landfall three weeks ago, but Trump is already complaining that Puerto Rico is tying up resources. The government keeps U.S. forces in foreign countries on the other side of the world carrying out dubious missions for more than a decade at enormous expense, but less than a month of using some military resources to help Americans after a catastrophe is apparently a terrible burden. Some of the government’s agencies will be needed in Puerto Rico for a long time to come, and others will always be there because it is part of our country. One gets the impression from a lot of Trump’s complaints about Puerto Rico that he thinks he should get personal credit for the government’s fulfillment of basic obligations to its citizens.

It’s impossible to miss that Trump has signaled repeatedly through his statements and his (lack of) actions that Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be given the same treatment or respect as Americans on the mainland despite the extraordinary disaster that has befallen people on the island. The appropriate response in this situation would be for the president to pledge to support recovery efforts as long as necessary and to reassure citizens living in a disaster area that they won’t be forgotten. Instead, Trump makes it sound as if he can’t wash his hands of the problem soon enough.

The general who was brought in to improve the response to Hurricane Katrina reacted to Trump’s statements this morning:

The initial federal response has been slower and less effective than it should be. Because of the extent of the storm’s devastation, there is a greater need for federal help than there usually is in the wake of hurricanes. There is ample evidence that the island will need much more immediate and longer-term assistance as it recovers from the disaster. The president and his administration show no signs of understanding that. Puerto Rico needs a sustained, large-scale commitment from the federal government that will be measured in years rather than weeks. If the president already finds the limited and inadequate response by the administration to be so burdensome and says so publicly, that tells the people working under him and the people living on the island that repairing and rebuilding Puerto Rico isn’t going to be a priority. The result of that is the ongoing unacceptable neglect of millions of Americans that desperately need help.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Trump’s Mishandling of the Puerto Rico Disaster"

#1 Comment By Kent On October 12, 2017 @ 9:50 am

Well, you know, Puerto Ricans aren’t Americans in the sense that most of the rest of us are Americans. Do I have to be the one to say it? There is a skin color and language issue here. Okay, I said it. I know everyone was thinking it. /sarc

Now Houston and Florida just make sense.

#2 Comment By reid On October 12, 2017 @ 10:00 am

As usual, his behavior is simply unacceptable on a human decency level, never mind as a president. I wish his supporters would do a mental exercise and imagine that Obama was still president and saying and tweeting this garbage; how would they feel then? I would hope it’d be eye-opening, but I suspect nothing can shake their faith in this fool.

#3 Comment By Richard Von Busack On October 12, 2017 @ 11:26 am

Oh, my God, I’m agreeing with an article in the American Conservative!

#4 Comment By by way of contrast On October 12, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

Can you imagine him saying something like this about Israel? We give Israel hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars. We have fought whole wars for it. In return, Israel sits on its fat ass and does nothing, the biggest international welfare queen in human history. We’ve been bailing out Israelis for 40 years, including 16 years of continuous wars.

… and after a mere three weeks, Trump’s got no money or time left for AMERICANS in Puerto Rico?

#5 Comment By balconesfault On October 12, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

Trump has pivoted to the things that matter … eroding Obamacare, and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Thanks to the costs of protecting the large Trump family, as well as the President, on all their various vacations and global business trips … back in August Secret Service Director Randolph Alles told USA Today that more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated annual caps for salary and overtime allowances.

The Executive Branch needs to move money around somehow to pay for all those upcoming Mar a Lago trips this winter, each of which eats about $3.6 million from their budget.

#6 Comment By Tobias On October 12, 2017 @ 1:16 pm

We’ve been in Afghanistan for the better part of two decades, but a few weeks in Puerto Rico is too much?

#7 Comment By swb On October 12, 2017 @ 5:32 pm

Depressing and completely predictable.

#8 Comment By Whine Merchant On October 12, 2017 @ 5:52 pm

I think the comments here reflect the thoughts of genuine Conservatives as well as the outrage of Progressives. Please understand the context for this – Chairman Trump is from the Capitol of the Empire, NYC. He is only reflecting Empire values on Puerto Ricans and their fellow Hispanic ‘others’.

Wars in Asia are perpetuated to appease Netanyahu and keep the economy churning via military spending. There are few spin-offs from rebuilding Puerto Rico, and lots of red meat for the base in trashing them.

Of course, if there were some multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts on offer, Trumpie might have a different take on this. If Trump really was the business genius he claims to be, he would have seen this a readily as Dick Cheney did in Iraq. His Halliburton stocks flew through the roof on those deals.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 12, 2017 @ 8:22 pm


The US should take care of its properties and those citizens that occupy them. I am not a fan of Puerto Rico statehood, but as they are currently citizens, they must given their due.

That does excuse what Pres. Trump seems to refer to as mismanagement.

#10 Comment By krogerfoot On October 12, 2017 @ 11:00 pm

Many of the comments on Rod Dreher’s recent post on the same topic are dispiriting, demonstrating that not every cretinous gloat at PR’s misery is the product of a Russian bot farm somewhere. Sociopathic Trumpismo is both homegrown and a full-blown political identity now.

#11 Comment By rayray On October 12, 2017 @ 11:15 pm

Not sure what you mean by, “that does excuse what Pres. Trump seems to refer to as mismanagement”.

#12 Comment By a spencer On October 13, 2017 @ 4:32 am

What sort of situations radicalize people?

Yemen and Puerto Rico, perhaps. Painfully obvious examples of preventable humanitarian disasters. For what?

#13 Comment By morganB On October 14, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

Lets help this man… to leave Washington.