Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He went to Puerto Rico and declared that it was already largely recovered thanks to his "A-plus" handling of the Maria recovery--but that if it wasn't, it was Puerto Ricans' own fault. 

Trump exaggerated the state of the recovery at every turn. Before leaving, he declared that "now the roads are cleared." They are not--but the absence of local trucks on the supposedly clear roads gave him an opportunity to once again scold Puerto Ricans as wanting "everything done for them," saying, “We need their truck drivers. Their drivers have to start driving trucks. We have to do that, so at a local level they have to give us more help.” On arrival, he said that the cost of the recovery had "thrown our budget a little out of whack." It came across as a pointed joke; Puerto Rican officials sitting alongside him didn't laugh.

In a telling moment, Trump happily compared the death toll of 16 favorably with that of Hurricane Katrina, a direct rebuttal to the charge that this was his Katrina. But that tally had not been updated in almost a week, because the ruined infrastructure has made it difficult to issue official death certificates. The actual number, based on bodies stacking up in morgues, is already known to be much, much higher

Later in the day, in full TV entertainer mode, Trump threw paper towels and flashlights at media and selected victims. (Reporters traveling with Trump noted the pro-Trump signs being waved by those admitted and called the event "well-staged.") Even in this moment, Trump stuck to the script that had Puerto Rico already fully recovered, declaring as he handed out flashlights, "You don't need 'em anymore!

Virtually all homes and private businesses on the island remain without electricity, a situation that is expected to last for months.

So what?

  • It's bad if a president can't bring himself to take disaster relief seriously.
  • It's very bad if a president blames disaster victims for their problems.
  • If the only purpose of a trip to a disaster area is for a president to regain his political momentum, it probably shouldn't happen.