Green Room

Obama’s Puerto Rico Visit Generates Blowback

posted at 12:45 pm on June 19, 2011 by

Last Tuesday, Barack Obama became the first sitting president since John F. Kennedy to visit Puerto Rico. He was there on a PR (public relations) mission, but it appears he should have focused more on the plight of PR (Puerto Ricans).

The president’s whirlwind visit lasted all of four hours, during which he spoke in broad and sweeping platitudes, claiming that “the aspirations and struggles of this island mirror those of the United States” and promising “we are going to put people back to work here in Puerto Rico and all across America.”

Obama further attempted to ingratiate himself with the crowd by exhausting his meager inventory of phrasebook Spanish. In so doing he used the same exaggerated Spanish accent he invoked when he famously uttered the nonsense phrase cinco de cuatro in 2009, providing even the usually sympathetic comedian Jon Stewart with ammunition.

But the president’s phony posturing and phonier accent were the least of his problems. The biggest was that his visit was blatantly self-serving—to raise campaign funds—while ignoring altogether the island’s record crime rate and giving no more than lip service to the staggering unemployment faced by residents of the U.S. territory. Last year the island of 4 million people recorded 955 murders, its second worst year ever for homicides. Its unemployment rate, which is at 16%, is higher than any U.S. state.

Leaders of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party noticed the stark absence of any concrete offers of help or solutions with these pressing issues—and they were resentful. Local Sen. Melinda Romero, a delegate of the island’s chapter of the Democratic Party, has demanded an apology from Obama and asked that he return the money raised during the brief stopover. She is quoted by The Washington Examiner as having said:

The President did not bring anything to the table. His visit only served to take away dollars, just like they take away our young people to war.

Adding to the resentment of the ruling New Progressives, led by Republican Gov. Luis Fortuno, is the unscheduled lunch that Obama had with opposition gubernatorial candidate Alejandro Garcia, a photo op from which now appears on the White House website.

Not everyone was angered by Obama’s visit. Hector Ferrer, vice president of the Popular Democratic Party, defended the president, saying,

How do they expect that the President in a one-day visit provide them with solutions and solve the disaster that they have created in two years?

A local political analyst, moreover, predicted that the bitterness over the president’s visit would not likely result in his losing any votes of the 4.6 million Puerto Ricans who live on the U.S. mainland votes.

But that’s speculation. What is fact is that Barack Obama at this late date in his first term still harbors the naïve belief that he can get by on his looks and charisma. That as much as any factor could lead to his undoing and increase his chances of becoming a one-term president.

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‘What is fact is that Barack Obama at this late date in his first term still harbors the naïve belief that he can get back on his looks and charisma. That as much as any factor could lead to his undoing and increase his chances of becoming a one-term president’.

Well put Howard. I just pray you are right about the ‘one-term president’! I still look for bho to head to mexico soon to help get the hispanic vote.
L

letget on June 19, 2011 at 1:01 PM

The White House is still in a pretty big state of denial when it comes to non-flyover country. They may believe that they’ve lost the bitter clingers for 2012, but still believe the magic survives among the poor and the downtrodden, and that Obama can basically just use Puerto Rico and it’s leaders an event backdrop to sway those on the mainland who can vote in the November ’12 election in key states like Florida.

It’s a June 2009 strategy they’re trying to play in June 2011, and at least some people on the island see it for what it is. But Team Obama really wouldn’t give a danm if 99.99 percent of the people on the island saw it for what it was, as long as the PR for the event works on Puerto Rican expatriates in the Sunshine State, or New Jersey or Pennsylvania, the latter two Obama has to win to get re-elected.

jon1979 on June 19, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Wake up, PR. Zero only stopped on your island paradise long enough to collect a check and promise statehood someday.

Kissmygrits on June 19, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Wake up, PR. Zero only stopped on your island paradise long enough to collect a check and promise statehood someday.

Kissmygrits on June 19, 2011 at 5:40 PM

I believe they had their eyes opened with this visit, of course there are die hard supporters here as well as is in the mainland.

tinkerthinker on June 19, 2011 at 7:18 PM

This post has been promoted to HotAir.com.

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Jazz Shaw on June 20, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Ok where are all of my comments? This thread may mislead some who don’t know about the reality of Puerto Rico. I was born and raised there and I find it quite offensive that all that I’ve written is erased.

It helped the thread it didn’t undermine it.

ProudPalinFan on June 23, 2011 at 1:46 AM