With tremendous infrastructure challenges slowing the distribution of aid in Puerto Rico, the Mayor of San Juan sent out a stark plea for help overnight. You can question the timing or the wording if you like, but she’s obviously looking for help wherever she can find it. (NBC News)
The mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city earned a rebuke from President Donald Trump Saturday after pleading more federal assistance in the wake Hurricane Maria.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency, and the bureaucracy,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said Friday at a news conference. She highlighted donations from companies and others, including 200,000 pounds of food donated by Goya, as a contrast to federal help.
“This is what we got last night. Four pallets of water, three pallets of meals, and 12 pallets of infant food — which, I gave them to the people of Comerio, where people are drinking off a creek,” she said. “So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell.”
Here’s the video. The Mayor has clearly reached her limits and is under a tremendous amount of pressure.
Unfortunately for me, I was already up and starting work when the President took to Twitter this morning in a case of being a bit more Trumpish than even the normal level of being Trump. I’ll just let you read them for yourself.
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. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They…. want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job. The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.
You can try to spin a lot of things that the President says in a positive direction and in some cases there’s a valid argument to be made. He tosses out inflammatory rhetoric on a regular basis and we can often write it off as ginning up support among his base. This is… something else. Was Carmen Yulín Cruz being a bit confrontational directly toward the White House? No doubt. And she’s been critical of Trump’s presidency in the past. But none of that really matters right now. The power is still out over most of the island, their infrastructure is almost entirely collapsed and people are literally dying.
That’s not to say this is entirely the fault of a flawed response at the federal level. There are plenty of forces on the ground doing work, distributing aid to the areas they can reach and more help is on the way. But regardless of where the blame (if there’s any to be assigned) eventually falls, we’re still in the middle of crisis mode down there. No matter how sharp tongued the Mayor’s comments might have been, President Trump needed to respond with compassion. I don’t believe that any significant portion of even his most die hard base will be impressed by turning this into a partisan political fight right now.
While such concerns are absolutely meaningless compared to the real world disaster unfolding in Puerto Rico, the politics and the optics of this are particularly bad. Trump had won high marks pretty much across the board for the federal response in Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I noted some CNN and MSNBC commentators who almost seemed to be gritting their teeth when reporting on the praise Trump was receiving for the relief efforts after both of those storms. You could tell that Trump’s detractors were hoping that he would fail in the response so they’d have something else to hit him with, but he came through in both cases. And his general approval ratings even began to show some signs of life as a result.
You can forget all of that now. Accusing the Mayor of bowing to political pressure and attacking him for partisan reasons (even if there clearly might have been more than a hint of that in play) is simply going to be viewed as callous. And calling out her “failed leadership” in getting her own people working on recovery was simply ugly. You can already see the comparisons that will be made at the Washington Post and the New York Times when they remind everyone that Puerto Rico is filled with brown skinned people while many of those affected in Florida and Texas were white. Add to that the fact that Trump is tweeting all of this from the golf course in New Jersey where he’s spending the weekend and you couldn’t write a better script for the Democrats and the liberal media if you brought in Oliver Stone to head up the project.
I’ve been loathe to join the chorus of people who have been saying this for a while, but… Mr. President? It might be time to put down the phone for a little while.