If there exists a positive light in which to paint the behavior and attitude of President of the United States on his tour of decimated and desperate Puerto Rico, this journalist couldn’t find it.
In fact, Donald Trump succeeded in doing his level best to not only insult the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens on the island, but inexplicably downplay the undeniable extent and massive scope of the catastrophe wrought by Hurricane Maria — despite ongoing lack of water, power, and food to an estimated 95 of the populace.
“We have gone all out for Puerto Rico,” Trump boasted of the U.S. disaster response — in definitive contrast to pleas for assistance and damning criticism proffered by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on a near daily basis — adding wearily, “It’s not only dangerous, it’s expensive.”
Yes, that’s right — the president bitched about the cost of saving American citizens’ lives. But he didn’t stop with a single, snide jab.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” Trump continued, unfiltered. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We saved a lot of lives.”
Alarmingly, Trump’s bellyaching over finances — perplexing, given the nascence of recovery — comes down to a death count. And the president doesn’t seem to feel Puerto Ricans have room to gripe — at least, not when it comes to statistics — or, perception of statistics.
“If you look at the — every death is a horror,” continued the president, “but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds of people that died and what happened here with a storm that was just totally overbearing. No one has ever seen anything like that. What is your death count?”
“Sixteen,” replied Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
“Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands,” Trump asserted, telling Puerto Ricans and officials they should be “proud” — perhaps of the deceptively small number of dead, although that wasn’t entirely clear.
After the strained and amateurish briefing, Trump visited some of the hurricane’s millions of victims, reassuring them his administration indeed would continue to help — a point up for debate, given the lack of water and power to most of the island and life-saving supplies reportedly moored, stuck in red tape, more than a week after the storm laid waste to Puerto Rico.
“We’re going to help you out,” he vowed, ruining the sentiment with, “have a good time.”
At one point in the tour of the stricken island, the leader of the so-called Free World tossed paper towels to a crowd gathered in a church to receive aid — an altogether strange affair as awkward in print as it is on recorded video:
There's video of Trump shooting paper towels into the crowd and it does not disappoint pic.twitter.com/KPfJ1AeAqk
— Caleb Ecarma (@calebecarma) October 3, 2017
All of Trump’s theatrics and hot air — however distasteful — couldn’t hold a candle to the potential harm rendered policy by his administration in another blow to Puerto Rico’s relief.
Coinciding with the president’s grade-school complaints about cost is a report from The Hill, which — for all intents and purposes — foments Trump’s hot air into a potentially life-threatening refusal to allow expanded options for, in many cases, literally starving Puerto Ricans, stating,
“Rosselló says the federal government has denied the U.S. territory’s request for its citizens to redeem food stamps for ready-to-eat hot meals, amid widespread food shortages and power outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.”
Nearly 40 percent of the populace, or 1.3 million people, rely on food assistance from the government — but Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) does not allow the purchase of fast food, or hot, prepared meals, as one would have served in a restaurant.
Never mind the situation has devolved into one of abject chaos in many areas, that people have literally died from lack of medicine, that potable water isn’t available, and groceries aren’t a simple trip to the store, when many do not have power — nor incoming stock to fill the shelves.
A hot meal — any meal — could save a life, or stave off desperation.
Trump, apparently, does not find the tragedy happening to (U.S. citizen) Puerto Ricans ‘on par’ with the suffering of Katrina’s victims — as if calamities should ever be rated prejudicially.
Meanwhile, most Puerto Ricans remain unaware of Trump’s insults and lackadaisical attitude — they’re too preoccupied with survival, waiting for the FEMA aid that has yet to reach them.