The funniest thing about POTUS being at his resort in Bedminster today, feuding with the mayor of a devastated San Juan on Twitter, is that it was literally just yesterday that he was complaining about Tom Price in terms of … “optics.” The optics of Price jetting around in a private plane on the taxpayers’ dime while Trump preaches populism were terrible, it’s true. The optics of Trump himself grumbling about Puerto Rican leaders wanting “everything to be done for them” in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, while at a golf course, are way worse.
But the mayor got a little “mouthy” with him yesterday so whaddaya gonna do?
Trump’s social media guy was still going after her on Twitter earlier this afternoon, in fact:
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) September 30, 2017
White House officials were baiting her too:
Asked a WH official if POTUS has plans to meet with the Mayor of San Juan Tuesday and got this response –> pic.twitter.com/Vo5CYamuMR
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) September 30, 2017
She’s right that the relief effort isn’t where it needs to be yet, though. Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, who’s in charge of the effort, said yesterday that more needs to be done:
“We’re certainly bringing in more [troops],” Buchanan said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“For example, on the military side, we’re bringing in both Air Force, Navy, and Army medical capabilities in addition to aircraft, more helicopters. … [But] it’s not enough, and we’re bringing more in.”
The Pentagon has already allocated more than 4,000 troops to help in rescue and restoration efforts to the U.S. territories, but it wasn’t until Thursday, eight days after Maria slammed the Caribbean, that U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) sent Buchanan.
Yeah, the attempt to “Katrina” Trump on this increasingly seems aimed not at how he’s responded over the past few days, when the mayor began criticizing him, but how he responded in the early aftermath of Hurricane Maria tearing through the island. This WaPo story is the harshest read yet on POTUS supposedly dropping the ball last weekend, when he was — where else? — at Bedminster:
Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club [last] Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said…
Even though local officials had said publicly as early as Sept. 20, the day of the storm, that the island was “destroyed,” the sense of urgency didn’t begin to penetrate the White House until Monday, when images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration’s response — began to appear on television, one senior administration official said…
It had taken until Monday — five days after Maria made landfall — for the first senior administration officials from Washington to touch down to survey the damage firsthand. And only after White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA Director Brock Long returned to Washington did the administration leap into action.
If only “Fox & Friends” had had live coverage as the storm hit. It’s not all the White House’s fault that they were caught by surprise at how bad the damage was: Because communications on Puerto Rico were wrecked, even local government officials had a hard time getting the full measure of the damage. Even so, everyone knew Maria was a Category Five storm and that Puerto Rico had been bludgeoned by it. And yet Trump’s public attention last weekend and early this week was mostly focused on the NFL.
The eternal question: Is he playing eight-dimensional chess in feuding with the mayor or just being irascibly insecure? The eight-dimensional chess view is that he’s better off politically handing the media a shiny object than by letting them focus on the full extent of the damage and the slow-ish federal response. I don’t buy that. I think Rich Lowry’s closer to the mark in believing that the feud with the mayor will encourage more media focus on the extent of the damage and the White House’s reaction. If you’re looking to damage POTUS by highlighting his callousness, as the media always is, highlighting the suffering on the island is a crucial part of the effort. Trump just handed them an engraved invitation with his tweets this morning. More likely he was spouting off about the mayor just because that’s what he does when he’s criticized, especially by a woman. Loose cannons fire indiscriminately, by definition.
Here’s retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who helped clean up New Orleans after Katrina, wishing POTUS a fun day on the golf course while the mayor of San Juan sleeps on a cot. She’s doing much more than that.
— CNN (@CNN) September 30, 2017