A Twitter pal joked this morning that eventually he’s going to hit on the idea of selling Puerto Rico to Mexico to pay for the wall. Yesterday I would have laughed at that. Today, after seeing POTUS’s tweets, I give him until no later than Christmas before he’s proposing it in earnest.
I don’t know if Mexico’s got the bread to afford P.R., though, even in its current condition. Why not shop it to the Kremlin? It might tickle their fancy to have a new military base on America’s doorstep. Plus, we owe them for Alaska.
In all seriousness, Trump’s obviously correct that the feds can’t manage a crisis in Puerto Rico forever. How about for 16 years, though? We managed that for Afghanistan, we can manage it for a U.S. territory.
Trump loves to strong-arm weaker powers about what they “owe” the U.S. We should pay for the Iraq war by seizing their oil; we should pay for the wall by sticking Mexico with the bill; we should pay for NATO by getting Germany to cough up their past “dues.” I think that same instinct is at play in his view of Puerto Rico. Their government has run the island’s finances into the ground, potentially leaving American taxpayers with the bill. What are they going to do to make it worth our while to stay put and help the natives dig themselves out, never mind that “the natives” in this case are U.S. citizens (who are fully eligible to vote, incidentally, after they establish residency on the mainland, which many are doing as the recovery back home lags). Imagine Illinois being struck by a natural catastrophe and the White House hinting to residents after three weeks that the feds might need to skedaddle because the garbage people they elected mismanaged their budget.
Here was POTUS after Hurricane Harvey in late August:
Right, I know, they’re red states. Even so, “nationalism” should mean something. Puerto Rico’s part of the nation. Why the rush to abandon ship?
Needless to say, if you’re going to strong-arm someone who’s at your mercy because they need help, doing it when they’re still in dire straits looks cutthroat and unseemly. Telling Angela Merkel that Germany needs to pay us back is one thing; telling Puerto Ricans who are drinking from toxic waste sites because they’re out of clean water to pull it together is something else. From a Guardian report dated yesterday:
Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) say that the government and its partners are only providing 200,000 meals a day to meet the needs of more than 2 million people. That is a daily shortfall of between 1.8m and 5.8m meals.
“We are 1.8 million meals short,” said one senior Fema official. “That is why we need the urgency. And it’s not going away. We’re doing this much today, but it has to be sustained over several months.”
The death toll may be literally 10 times higher than the official count and fully 84 percent of the island remains without power, per the governor’s office. In fact, until now Gov. Ricardo Rossello had been a Trump ally, complimentary of the president while San Juan’s mayor attacked him. He’s less complimentary after this morning’s Twitter outburst:
The U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation.
— Ricardo Rosselló (@ricardorossello) October 12, 2017
PR Gov Ricardo Rossello is asking the White House to “clarify” @realDonaldTrump tweets today warning USG aid to PR won’t continue “forever”
— Tom Gjelten (@tgjelten) October 12, 2017
That set Chuck Schumer up for an easy lay-up:
Why do you continue to treat Puerto Ricans differently than other Americans when it comes to natural disasters?
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 12, 2017
One question about Trump’s tweets is whether they’ll end up giving cover to Republicans in Congress to vote against extended FEMA relief for Puerto Rico. Most congressional GOPers won’t want to inch out on that limb alone, knowing that they’ll get the Schumer treatment. With Trump acting as lightning rod, it’s a different story. They’ve got cover. Who knows? In three months, a “defund Puerto Rico relief” effort might be raging among the grassroots right. The political damage has already been done. Might as well bank some populist cred now.
Here’s Mike Pence yesterday at a reception for National Hispanic Month assuring Puerto Ricans, “We will be with you every single day.” Change of plans!