The process of distributing supplies to suffering Puerto Ricans continues, a week after President Donald Trump’s visit devastated the island. Three weeks prior, Hurricane Maria appeared to lay down the foundation for Trump’s vile trolling campaign. And so, much was made about President Trump throwing rolls of paper towels out into a crowd. The rest of the week was dominated by more outrage about how the President contemplated launching cans of chicken soup in the same way, according to a report by the Washington Post.
Trump Is Neither A Consoler Nor Consistent
The crowd “gently” disagreed with his chicken soup idea, showing that the president’s attempts to keep the mood light was in fact, a complete disconnect from the people.
We should note that Hurricane Maria was only one of the two American tragedies over which President Trump “tried” to console people in need. The other tragedy was the first major mass shooting under his presidency. But only Trump surrogates framed his engagement with suffering Americas in a positive light. It’s also clear that with every tragedy he’s shown up for, engagement with people is always on his terms.
These terms — when applied to Puerto Rico — involved the island’s financial debt. Trump put the fact that they owe money to the U.S as a priority over human welfare, even though Trump is personally responsible for a part of the island’s debt. Trump’s white nationalist views that Puerto Rico is an island of Latinos certainly didn’t help. In fact, he’s very much like a vindictive landlord who lashes out at his Puerto Rican tenants. This makes sense since he comes from the real estate business. Overall, his hostile attacks against the Mayor of Puerto Rico’s San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, via Twitter, was not consoling.
Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
We can attribute this to Trump’s racist view against Hispanics, who he is waging war on with his crackdown on illegal immigration, which is further evidenced by the fact that he restricted even legal immigration.
His determination to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program also returned on Sunday. This shocked many (if that’s still possible) who thought the president would show some consistency with his previous display of goodwill. To summarize, Latinos left devastated on their island who are in debt, are culturally isolated by threats to their undocumented neighbors.
Cruz Fights Back
Because of that, it only shows that Trump doesn’t care about consistency and would prefer to be less of a consoler. A PBS NewsHour correspondent asked Mayor Cruz about the President’s four-hour visit last week. The Washington Post reported that Cruz shook hands briefly with President Trump, but that she was also very direct in their encounter.
She apparently told him that their problems on the island were not about politics but about saving lives. Before this, they had only exchanged hostilities on Twitter, where he accused the mayor of playing politics, saying that Democrats told her to “be nasty to Trump.”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
In the PBS NewsHour interview, Cruz said that she could see the disconnect during the second part of their meeting with White House staff. There were no hints in the interview that Trump’s visit offered anything positive at all.
When asked if the President should have flown around the look at the devastation, Cruz said that if his heart wasn’t open, then flying wouldn’t make a difference. She also criticized him for not letting anyone give him negative feedback, as it disconnects him from the realities on the ground. She started the interview by saying she had nothing to say to Trump, but ended it by saying about his attacks on her, to “bring it on.”
Trump’s ‘Good News’ Spin Pollutes Puerto Rico
One of the reported exchanges between the Mayor and the administration was also with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prior to Trump’s visit, the acting secretary Elaine Duke told the press:
“I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”
Clearly, this was just more of Trump using spin to pat himself on the back. Mayor Cruz responded saying that it was not a “good news story,” that it was a “people are dying story.”
On Sept. 28, Homeland Security temporarily waived the Jones Act, a 97-year-old law that requires American ships to send goods to and from Puerto Rico. Because of that, the shipping of goods is more expensive than what it costs the island to get from surrounding islands. Waiving the Act was an issue of waiving costs. Trump claimed that the shipping industry was challenging his consideration to waive the Jones Act. With the crisis in Puerto Rico, there is no doubt a surge in the need for goods.
The temporary waiver expired on Sunday, which means merchants can charge the Puerto Rican island double once again. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – who has been wanting to get rid of the Jones Act altogether – told the Huffington Post on Monday that it was a “burdensome law” and it would “hinder much-needed efforts” to provide aid to the island.
As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Energy claims that 85 percent of “customers” lack power. Three weeks after the hurricane, this is still a significant portion of the island without electricity. But this also applies to the number of people who were “graced” with Trump’s presence last week. In fact, he only spent four hours in the municipality of Guaynabo, which was reportedly spared from the devastation that the rest of the island experienced. Guaynabo, which is a wealthy San Juan suburb, only suffered broken windows from a two-story building and downed trees.
According to the mentioned article by the Post, the mayor of Guaynabo, Angel Perez Otero, seemed to give President Trump more leverage in attacks against Cruz. This was because Otero gave the President the praise that he wanted for providing aid to them.
He said of Mayor Cruz that she was not participating in their relief efforts as other mayors were. According to the article, Otero said that all mayors should help their residents rather than attack the federal government. Otero’s comments further suggest that Puerto Ricans should be more submissive than defiant against a hostile president, in spite of the fact that Trump has asked Congress to loan Puerto Rico $4.9 billion, even suggesting that their debt would have to be wiped out. Being that there’s no consistency with this guy, you can’t take him at his word.
Watch Mayor Cruz’s interview with PBS Newshour here: